So I’m going to overlook the fact that my self-published literary empire consists of two short works that collectively total about 25,000 words, and pretend that I am a world-famous author, and thus that I have legions of fans who are dying to know more about how I wrote my new novella. This is part one of a few posts indulging this delusion. Note: There may be <<MILD SPOILERS>> below.
Near the end of 2018, shortly after sending out my still-unpublished novel to collect rejection letters, I was contemplating the likelihood of another brown Christmas in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis has had an inch or less of snow on the ground at Christmas for 6 of the past 8 years). Brown Christmases are by far the most trivial and meaningless impact of climate change, for the planet and for Minnesota, but for whatever reason that’s what was stuck in my mind, day after day. In the general insanity of the holiday season, this train of thought crossed paths with others, and produced a spark of an idea, that global warming was particularly dramatic in the Arctic, and likely to have a dramatic effect on the Arctic’s most famous mythical denizen.
I scribbled out a few paragraphs about this on paper, and briefly considered trying to crank something out by Christmas, but quickly realized that all I had was a scene — no plot, no sense of where to take the characters. My main focus was still on (unsuccessfully) marketing my novel, so I dropped it and let the idea go.
Flash forward to September 2019. I had just self-published my short story “A Brief History of the Tangini Colony,” and I wanted to write another shorter work. The general strategy was (and remains) to build a base with shorter works that will hopefully produce enough followers to make my novel more appealing to agents. My “Santa confronts climate change” idea popped back to the surface. I should have enough time to write something and get it published before the holiday season, where perhaps interest might be greater.
I have a very dry and somewhat warped sense of what is commonly called “humor”, and I thought that I could write this situation better in that style. This led me very quickly to consider St. Nick’s interactions with other mythical characters, like Mrs. Claus (Claudia) and the Easter Bunny (E.B.). I saw these as good fits with my sense of humor.
I had a sense early on that I wanted to write something that was ultimately tragic. In this I am undoubtedly influenced by my perception of the world around me, a polarized, fractious mess where people are so consumed with short-term gain that they are unable or unwilling to grasp the seriousness of longer-term threats. Thus, from the beginning I had a rough sense of how I wanted the story to end, and it was not necessarily a happy one.
The last early piece of the story that fell into place early on was the title. I find titles very difficult to come by, as evidenced by “Tangini” and by my-unpublished “Firebreak” novel, which still bears the name of its universe since three years of thought have not produced a better one. In this case, however, a title came to me quickly. I’m a big Star Trek fan, and as a child saw reruns of the Original Series more times than I can count. There’s one particular episode, “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, that has always struck a chord with me. It’s not the best episode (there’s at least ten I’d put in front of it), and it has its fair share of cheesiness and gender stereotypes, but I always found the ending, where the being who was the Greek god Apollo fades away because humanity has rejected him, extremely sad. Thus it was, while brainstorming titles, “Who Mourns for St. Nicholas?” popped into my head. I liked the resonance, both as a parody/pun and as a tragic ending.
Of course, my novella is a very different story, with different settings, characters, and themes. It should in no way be interpreted as a parody or homage to the original. However, there was one other concept from it that influenced me — the concept of fading.
More to come, another time…