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The League Against Santa Claus
by Selina Lock
The blue-hooded figure stepped up to the podium. His long, grey beard looked in need of a good trim, but his beady eyes took in the motley crowd before him. He banged his staff on the wooden floor and the murmur of voices slowly faded.
“I call to order this meeting of The League Against Santa Claus” he said in a voice that filled the village hall and made the straggly tinsel and foil stars sway slightly.
“First order of business is a battle plan to destroy that lowly upstart Santa Claus!”
This produced a ragged cheer from the crowd, with a crashing of chains from the hairy, cloven-hoofed beast in the far corner. The beast’s long red tongue lolled out of his mouth in a sinister smile.
The bearded man banged his staff again and started detailing his battle plan. After about forty five minutes of this, the Yule Goat spat out the fake Christmas tree branch he’d been idly gnawing and bleated for attention.
“I was promised biscuits and akvavit. Bring on the nibbles!” the goat demanded. The hooded man glared at him. The goat stared back, chewing the cud calmly before speaking.
“You know we’ll just follow your lead Odin. No need to bore us all to death with the details.”
“Boiled adzuki beans done yet?” two men in identical ogre masks and straw capes chimed up in unison.
Odin banged his staff on the floor again and stalked off stage.
“Fine, the nibbles are at the back” he said.
The Yule Goat ambled after him.
“Who invited the two namahage?” he asked Odin, gesturing with one hoof towards the men in the ogre masks. “They’re New Year demons. We don’t want them muscling in on our territory.”
Odin sighed. “We’re a bit short on troops this year and they did make a compelling argument that Santa had nicked their naughty kids shtick.”
They all got stuck into the stollen, Christmas themed beer and akvavit. The party was very convivial until Krampas attempted to dance on one of the tables. They decided it was time to take him home before he hurt someone.
Odin surveyed his troops. The drunken beast, the masked twins and the abnormally large goat. He wished Thor hadn’t been too busy in Hollywood to attend this year. He banged his staff again and the other members of the League rolled their eyes at him.
“Remember, we meet at the North Pole at noon on Christmas Eve. Anyone who needs a lift can hitch a ride with the wild hunt.”
On Christmas Eve they gathered on a snow-packed peak overlooking Santa’s grotto. Odin was sporting a shiny new blue robe, had combed his beard for the occasion and was sitting astride his eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Krampus had polished his chains and the Yule Goat was sporting one of those red Scandinavian style scarves that were all the rage. The namahage were jigging about and grumbling about the cold. Behind them, the ghostly horses of the wild hunt stamped their hooves, while their riders waved their spears and bows.
Odin’s ravens Huginn and Muninn could be seen flying above the grotto, scouting out the territory. They returned a few minutes later to make their report. Odin trotted forward and addressed his troops.
“It appears Santa got wind of our assault and has recruited a couple of security yeti, but we mustn’t let that stop us. This is our year! Ready your weapons.”
The riders, demons and beasts shifted around and tensed their muscles. Odin turned Sleipnir to face the grotto and raised his staff.
The strange crew thundered down the bank towards Santa’s workshop. An answering roar was heard, as lumbering yeti appeared, reindeer bolted out of the stables and the jolly man in the red suit rallied his own troops.
As the two sides got nearer, Odin released the first snowball, which hit Santa square in the chest.
“First point to us” Odin shouted in triumph.
Then the Yule Goat locked horns with Rudolph, the wild hunt went up against the other reindeer and Krampus and the namahage twins targeted the yeti. The snowball fight began in earnest.
The noise from the fight caused Mrs Claus and head Elf Freda to come running out of the house, where they’d been having a well-earned hot chocolate break. They skidded to a halt, as a snowball landed at their feet. Mrs Claus shook her head.
“Every year, every damn year this happens. He promised it wouldn’t interfere with loading the sleigh, but oh no, they have to have their fun. Men!”
She threw her hands up in the air and Freda patted her on the shoulder, not easy when you are an elf of restricted stature.
“Good job we organised extra elf shifts, just in case.”
“You’re a life-saver, or a Christmas saver in this case Freda” Mrs Claus replied. “Come on then, let’s get that sleigh loaded.”
They turned back towards the workshop, with whoops and yells ringing in their ears.
“But if he thinks he’s sleeping in our bed tonight he’s very much mistaken” Mrs Claus muttered as she went.
Naughty or Nice?
by Jay Eales
“You remember the rules, right?”
“Jawohl, mein Kapitan.” Carol gave a Hitler salute, with a mocking grin.
Rather than the desired effect of lightening the mood, Kristian’s expression grew grave.
“Indulge me.” He looked at Carol seriously, as though he was about to tell her the cat had been run over. Carol sighed, and played the game, rattling through the rules by rote, just as Kristian had relayed them to her: “No smoking. No drinking. No swearing. I thought this was supposed to be fun?”
“It better be. It cost me a packet to ship that crate all the way from Lapland.”
“I’d have been happy with a week at Centerparcs.”
“I can take you to Centerparcs any time of year! Where’s your Christmas spirit?”
“Under lock and key in the drinks cabinet until after Twelfth Night, apparently…”
“If you think my dad will stop smoking those evil Christmas Cuban cigars of his just because of some rules you’ve made up, you don’t know him as well as you should.”
“I didn’t make the rules. Rare Exports Incorporated do. I had to sign a contract before they’d even agree to let me buy one.”
“Might as well have been. I felt they’d charged me a pound of flesh. But, it’ll be worth it. This is gonna be the best Christmas ever, babes. Trust me. It’s all for you. Your dad will understand. Tell him we’re not smoking in the house any more, or something.”
“Careful, tiger! Isn’t lying on that list of rules somewhere too? Can I take a peek at this mysterious crate, at least?”
“Don’t be so impatient! Christmas Eve is just a few hours away. You’ll have to wait.” Kristian seemed to have cheered up a little at least. He’d regained some of his playfulness. It was a relief, as Carol thought he’d had it all knocked out of him with all the extra hours at work. A fat wallet was all well and good, but not if it meant losing the cheeky man-child she’d fallen for. Hadn’t she worked just as hard to keep up with the Joneses; live the dream; a top-flight career and a life?
“Can I at least have a teensy bottle of Grolsch tonight? It’s not Christmas yet. You haven’t even let me trim the tree. You and your family traditions. Look at the poor thing sitting there in the corner all naked and green. By the time you let me decorate it, the needles will have started to drop off. Come on, big boy! Just a beer and a bauble… I won’t tell.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Kristian!” Carol was growing just a little tired of her boyfriend’s inflexibility. What good was Christmas if you couldn’t let your hair down? Eat too much, drink too much and go a little wild. Let the credit card take the strain and repent at leisure when the New Year was safely begun. Kristian took a sharp intake of breath, “Careful… Do you want to be naughty or nice?”
“Oh, I like this game! Naughty, every time! It’s a fair cop, guv! Put the bracelets on. I can’t promise I’ll come quietly, though.” Carol pantomimed the universal invitation to put invisible handcuffs on her wrists, a prelude to a better end to the evening than its beginning, she hoped. Hope that was instantly dashed when she saw the horrified look on Kristian’s face.
“He’ll put you on his list.”
“He can check it as many times as he bloody well likes. The day I’ve had, I’m having a drink. Join me or don’t. And I’m opening the gingerbread packet. Don’t even try stopping me.”
Kristian knew he was on a hiding to nothing. When Carol set her mind to it like this, nothing short of coshing her over the head and dragging her from the house would change how this would turn out. He considered it.
The funny thing was, Carol did get her way and decorated the tree that night. Not in a modern style, though it could be described as ‘traditional’. When both sets of parents arrived for Christmas dinner, punctual as ever, Carol’s father stubbing out his filthy cheroot in the snow outside the house on the instructions of She Who Must Be Obeyed, they could see the tree glistening through the window first of all.
When they finally gained entry, it was the splintered crate they saw next, quite empty. Their calls to Carol and Kristian went unanswered. Confused that they might have missed a phone message cancelling dinner, they wandered about the house, finally arriving in the lounge to finally witness the tree in all its glory. Not a scrap of tinsel on the tree this year. Slippery red ropes strung about the tree, and those were definitely not baubles. Ho. Ho. Ho.
This story is a homage to the film Rare Exports & is not intended to infringe copyright.
Last weekend we were at The Lakes International Comics Art Festival in Kendal.
Our highlights were:
Jay and I will be heading up to The Lakes International Comics Art Festival next weekend (Friday 17th – Sunday 19th Oct), with a boot full of Borderline Press books to drop off at the Comics Clocktower.
Including the new Verity Fair collection by Terry Wiley, which we’re very excited to see as Verity first saw publication in the pages of The Girly Comic.
On Sat 18th at 10.30am I’ll be appearing on the To End all Wars – The Art of Editing panel, as one of the ‘ brow-beaten’ contributors. This will be followed by a mass signing featuring the attending TEAW contributors. Come along and say Hi!
Also looking forward to attending lots of the other events at The Lakes.
We’ll be heading up to Thought Bubble in November.
Looking forward to seeing the glory of three halls of stalls and catching up with lots of friends.
Very excited to have been asked to do a local book signing for ‘To End All Wars’ at the University of Leicester bookshop on Tues Dec 2nd. More details when confirmed.
It’s only a few days to FantasyCon starts on Friday (and our holiday from the day jobs begin). Here’s the places you’ll be guaranteed to see us at FCon:
Friday 5th Sept
5.00pm – WORKSHOP: Writing for Comics
From idea to sale, what do you have to do? (limited to 20 attendees on sign-up sheet at Registration)
Selina Lock, Jay Eales
Saturday 6th Sept
2.00pm – The Alchemy Press Book Launch
Kneeling in the Silver Light anthology edited by Dean Drinkel
The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2 anthology edited by Jan Edwards & Jenny Barber
The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes 3 anthology edited by Mike Chinn
Nick Nightmare Investigates limited edition collection by Adrian Cole
Merry-Go-Round limited edition collection by Bryn Fortey
Inspired by equal parts Lamont (The Shadow) Cranston and Jim (The Spectre) Corrigan, “When the city cries out for justice, the Revenant responds.”
7.00pm – Comics on the Small Screen
Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, the Flash, Daredevil, Peggy Carter – is TV the new cinema for superior superhero drama?
Maura McHugh (m), Selina Lock, Guy Adams, Mike Chinn, Den Patrick
We’re also looking forward to going to some of the other items on the schedule, catching up with friends and meeting new people. We’re always happy to chat, so grab us to say ‘Hi!’ if you’ll be there.
Before the launch the contributors in attendance went on a fun little photo shoot with photographer John Birdsall.
Then we all headed into the spacious basement of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio where people were starting to congregate for refreshments and to browse the Five Leaves bookstall. I got my first glimpse of the physical copies of To End All Wars, which look great. High quality, chunky hardback with black-edged paper. Soaring Penguin have done us proud.
Once the 72 attendees were seated we launched into the official talk part of the evening.
Ross from Five Leaves started off the proceedings with a quick introduction and the unusual request to stay put if the fire alarm went off! (There were problems with it and someone would inform us toot sweet if there really was a fire…).
Then John gave a little background to the project. How it was devised by Jonathan Clode, who asked John to contribute and then talked him into co-editing. They put in a tremendous amount of work into editing and producing the book, including guiding the work of 53 creators from many countries.
Sales of the book were brisk and some of the attendees asked us to scribble on their copies. Our talks and the book seemed to go down very well and I enjoyed chatting to various people at the launch. My skirt also got lots of compliments and an introduction of it’s own from Brick!
Thanks to John, Ross, Pippa and Pippa’s son (for tech support) for organising the launch, and to all those that attended, for a lovely evening.
You can also buy a copy directly from Soaring Penguin Press this Saturday 2nd August at the Birmingham International Comics Expo (ICE).
Jay and I will be popping into ICE for a few hours. We will also be at the London To End All Wars launch at Gosh! on the 20th August and at The Lakes International Comics Festival on 17th-19th October.
I will be joining Jonathan Clode and Brick on the To End All Wars – Art of Editing panel at The Lakes.
I’m very excited and proud to be part of To End All Wars, which would not have been possible without Arthur Goodman, who stepped into the artist breach at the last-minute. Thank you Arthur.
I’m very excited that this WWI graphic anthology is on its way from the printers to Soaring Penguin Press and will be arriving through letter boxes and in shops soon.
That’s partly because it looks like an interesting collection covering lots of lesser known aspects of WWI and £2 from the sale of each book will go to help the charity Médecins Sans Frontières. But mainly it’s because I wrote a fifteen page strip for it, called ‘Go Home and Sit Still‘, which has been illustrated by Arthur Goodman.
Our strip looks at the experiences of the women of the Scottish Women’s Hospital that went out to support Serbian troops in Russia in 1916/7.
I’ll also be at both launch events and the signing at The Lakes Comic Arts Festival.
Midlands dwellers can join us at the Five Leaves Bookshop launch on Wed 30th July at 7pm. Please RSVP, as the venue will depend on attendance.
For those of you in the Big Smoke there is a launch at Gosh! Comics on August 20th.
Lots of links:
Director’s Commentary: guiding an anthology to completion with To End All Wars, Forbidden Planet Blog
War stories: The making of new WW1 anthology, BBC Scotland
Here’s a gallery of titles that we have contributed to.
Containing the first publication of one of my earliest stories: Zeitgeist. Something of a period piece now, Zeitgeist focuses on the historic day in tiny market town Allerdale where they received their very first cash machine… and the workmen disturb more than just the town luddites in the process. Featuring Uncle Henry, the Fast Food Exorcist.
“I were talking to me mam about… y’know… the Ess Pee Oh Oh Kay. And she reckoned as how we should have a word with me Uncle Henry. Him as runs the Chippy? Apparently, he’s the seventh son of a seventh son, or summat. Does a bit of exorcising on the side, like. So I asked him to come over.” She finished her little speech with a flourish, “He said he’ll be in later, when he’s had a chance to get the taters in.”
The full line-up is:
Terror Tales Spring 2014, Vol. 3 No. 2, Issue 10 (RAIN130)
Edited by John B Ford & Steve Lines
Walpurgis Homecoming by Franklyn Searight
Zeitgeist by Jay Eales
The Lost Guitar of Jordan Wells by Sue Phillips
The Change Will Do You Good by Mark Walker
The Manor of Madness by Lee Clark Zumpe
What Dark World by Glynn Barrass
Available from Rainfall Records & Books for £4.50 including P&P.