A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales

Reviewed: December 12, 2003
By: edited by Brian M. Thomsen
Publisher: Warner/Aspect Books
257 pages, $19.95

Theme anthologies can be a real treat if the selection is varied. If you’re looking for uplifting Christmas fare, however, only some of the pieces in this volume will suit you. Despite the title, these are mostly tales of Santa Claus, well, sort of Santa Claus anyway.

For instance, Neil Gaiman has a really short Santa curse story for us, while William Gibson has a cybernetic reworking of a visit from the Jolly Old Elf. Donald E, Westlake presents us with a kind of anti-Santa, a variation on the  legend of Black Peter, it would seem. Richard Matheson, on the other hand, presents a time-worn Claus, just trying to get away from it all for a day or two before the rush starts.

Did you know that L. Frank Baum of Oz fame wrote a book about Santa Claus? There’s a chapter of it here. Brete Harte, who wrote about seedy adventures in the west in the late 19th century, took the old fellow to a place called Simpson’s Bar, somewhere near Sacramento. Anne McCaffrey, probably best known for her tales about science fictional dragons, wrote about a little boy who tried to create Santa in the image he wanted him to be. Connie Willis attempted to settle the question of which is the best sappy Christmas movie.

Oh, and Harlan Ellison served up the adventures of Secret Agent Kris Kringle, Agent H0H0H0.

And so on. Lots of fun and a few chills as well.