The Anomalous Archive, Part IV: 'Christmas Time' by Kersley Fitzgerald

 [This review was originally posted on the Anomaly forum on April 1, 2010.]

"Christmas Time," 1st in Issue 2 of The Cross and the Cosmos

The first short story in the second issue of The Cross and the Cosmos is another deeply-implemented science fiction diversion. "Christmas Time" by Kersley Fitzgerald sets a family situation that can easily be related to within a deeply speculative, mythopoeic version of the future, complete with legendary figures of the past and inherited abilities. The result is quite strange. In some ways, the scene feels very familiar, and the customs and public appearance of the futuristic society seem much too similar to contemporary American culture. However, other aspects of the setting are extremely speculative. In fact, it strikes me as a bit unorthodox to set seasonal holiday fiction in such a far-removed setting in the first place.

Actually, there is no one element that stands out as particularly bizarre about the worldbuilding. The reason it seems like such a jarring dichotomy is that an important part of the sci-fi element seems particularly unlikely. The inhabitants of this future universe seem to be able to travel throughout time fairly easily, and the limits of this ability are not clearly defined. Despite its crucial role to the whole point of the story, the time-travel element actually doesn't affect the course of the plot very significantly. I'm not sure whether or not this produces an undesirable effect. The background of the story feels a little peculiar with such advanced, paradoxical science fiction themes appearing alongside many features that are more-or-less exactly the same as in real life. Other than that, the worldbuilding is well-planned and sufficiently detailed.

The characters that are seen in this speculative background are incredibly life-like. They are not inhabitants of a bizzare alternate future, but rather people you might meet in your own neighborhood or congregation. The story is not colored with romantic sentiments. The simple stresses of everyday life are realistically portrayed, and the characters are far from perfect. Not only are they imperfect, but neither are they epically flawed in one profound part of their makeup, in the manner of a romantic tragedy. They are simply real people. The tensions of the plot builds slowly through a string of events, and the "trick" of the story is not evident until the very end. Just before the characters' low-level drama starts to acquire a hint of tedium, the plot advances toward the trick ending. This plot device is very appropriate for this story, allowing for maximum character development.

Kersley Fitzgerald's writing works well for me. Like the characters and setting, the prose style is down-to-earth and ordinary, but the writing is fully effective and professional. The author expresses the emotions and drama of the character interactions implicitly, without using more words than necessary. Unfortunately, there are some unresolved copyediting issues in the published story.

"Christmas Time" delightfuly presents a seasonal Christian fictional incident in an intriguing speculative atmosphere and is well worth reading, even if Christmas is quite a long time away.

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