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EP138: In the Late December

Nebula Award Nominee!

By Greg van Eekhout.
Read by Stephen Eley.
Closing Music: “Chiron Beta Prime” by Jonathan Coulton.
First appeared in Strange Horizons, December 2003.

They come to a cloud of silver mist, and there Santa finds a little boy made of molten silver with liquid silver eyes and sweeping silver delta wings. His wrists are ringed with missile launchers, and a rounded cone emerges from a cavity in his chest. Once there were many silver boys, fleets of them, protecting the outermost parts of inhabited space against things that came from outside inhabited space. But now, there is only the silver boy.

“You, sir,” the silver boy says, “are a tiresome consciousness cluster. Your binary value system remains as laughable as it is irrelevant. How you manage to remain cohesive is beyond me.”

“My value system is hardly binary,” Santa says. “In between naughty and nice I’ve made room for you: grumpy but fundamentally sound. Do you want a toy or not?”

Rated PG. Contains some dark Santa-related imagery, and the heat death of the universe.

Comments (22)

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  1. little boy says:

    Murray Klizmus to you all.

    What was the link to the closing song artist?

  2. […] Filed under: Commentary, SciFy — ifireball @ 14:59 I just finished listening to the special Christmas story EscapePod released yesterday, and while I’m Jewish and live in Israel where this time of a […]

  3. Quinn says:

    Greatest emotional range of a podcast … ever

  4. The Doctor says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for this emotional roller coaster. I laughed, I cried, I was scared, relieved, happy, sad, OMFG. One of the best Escape Pod stories ever. Merry XSHKW (Xmas/Solstice/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Whatever) all!

  5. Paul Elwood says:

    Awesome, santa vs. entropy; this is destined to be a Christmas classic (in some circles, anyway) … just awesome.

  6. Martin R says:

    Entropy? I know there was some physics in-joke there that I just wasn’t getting!

  7. Nora says:

    I’d forgotten how absolutely brilliant that story is. Rudolph as tricked-out mecha warrior. The heat death of the universe forestalled by Santa Claus. Gorgeous and powerful and delightful.

  8. RR Anderson says:

    Humanisim is obsolete? No way. This is story illustrates clearly how self-awareness can be crippling. And that being alone with yourself is increasingly unpopular. As long as I have this story I’ll never be alone. Good job team Escape pod !

  9. SirLordCaptainKcirehs1203 says:

    Well this is kind of more of a general remark about Escape Pod as opposed to a remark on the story in particular. I love Escape Pod and I really enjoy the storys every week and have gotten several friends interested in it too. I have the first five collection CDs, but there seems to be a problem with collection number four. I haven’t listened to collection five yet, but with collection four ep 88 through 93 and several flash fiction peaces and reviews will not play. 15 files in all. They appear to be only 2kb in size as opposed to the rest which are 20mb or 19mb or whatever. I got collections four and five just before the holliday which was great, but it was somewhat disappointing to find this problem when I had found no problems with the first three discs which I thought were nearly perfect and I can’t wait for up coming collections and when there are more I will probably get the Pseudo pod discs as well. Anyway I guess in part I am wondering if anyone else has found this problem with their copy of collection four or what. Yes, I know I can make my own, but I like the idea of supporting you guys and you might include things I might miss. For example the interview with one of the writers that was on I think collection two.

  10. Nikolai says:

    I’m alarmed by the tendency to envision Santa as God. I recently heard a Christmas song with the lyric, “Santa loves you whether you’re rich or poor.” Isn’t it supposed to be God or Jesus loving you?

    And now this story – We all exist only because Santa believes in us!

    That said, I really enjoyed this story. It’s a delightful irony that what matters is whether Santa believes in you, not the other way ’round.

  11. Gary H says:

    I guess I’m one of the few that didn’t care much for this story. It depressed me. Christmas is supposed to be fun. Santa is supposed to be fun and bring wonder, excitement, and imagination into the minds of our children. I love Christmas because my kids love it. Santa exists because my 5 year old thinks he squeezes through the heater vent, not because he brings gifts to a puddle.

    Sorry, didn’t work for me but I am glad for the variety in EscapePod.

  12. Audita Sum says:

    I respectfully disagree with Nikolai. In my opinion, since gods are a creation of man (also my opinion), Santa could, possibly, be a god in his own right. I mean, there’s certainly a lot of theology about him in the form of Christmas songs. It’s no different than how Islam grew, largely, out of Judaism. Though Santa started as a saint in the Christian faith, he could be recognized as an offshoot god.

    Anyway, I liked the idea of intelligence clusters. I also liked that Santa was humanized in this story. Though he tried to fit his usual perameters of being jolly and whatnot, he had weaknesses, not necessarily in his psyche, but in his entire being. He let the Big Empty kill his wife just to keep himself alive, for Mods sake. The story was pretty grim, which was, I admit, a little disappointing, but it did its job. It was well-written, and pretty awesome. Greg van Eekhout’s stuff often is.

  13. Cayce says:

    The story was well written, but I got the feeling that is was “the Never-ending Story” in space. Only by giving the princess a name/concentrating on the details can the nothing be defeated. Having said all of that, I still felt the pain of the reindeer disappearing and the happiness of the return of the remaining beings banding together to help in the fight. Not a bad 30 minutes spent.

  14. Vance M. says:

    Interesting and inventive but it pulled me down into a depressing sink hole. I also agree that I enjoy the variety that Escape Pod shares with us, but honestly I really did not like this one. I guess maybe I’m a little sentimental during Christmas time, and expect stories of hope, love, sharing, good will towards men and all that jazz. After hearing this I just felt sad and numb.

  15. Eric Conrad says:

    After listening to the whole story, my only comment would be, “eh”.

  16. scatterbrain says:

    What can I say;
    weird plus one.

  17. Good story,
    I liked the idea of Santa delivering gifts to all the good boys and girls across the universe not just little old earth.
    Enjoyable

  18. […] (I won’t say ‘fan’ because I’m not fanatical enough) ever since I heard In The Late December on Escape Pod last Christmas. That will most definitely be getting its own post one of these days. Either way, I […]

  19. […] Heat death of the universe, dying stars, and entropy the end of the universe as we know it. […]

  20. […] Escape Pod 138: In The Late December by Greg van Eekhout […]

  21. saintnick says:

    thanks for thats, how are you doing for this xmas? i took your reccomendation and purchased a
    surrender for my wife

    http://foundit.open.ac.uk/story.php?title=fun_christmas_gifts

  22. […] Pod’s short-fiction podcast has not one but two Christmas […]