December 24, 2013

A Christmas Carol

        Today I’m thinking about Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol as a fantasy tale.  It’s got a ghost, it’s got supernatural spirits, it’s got time travel and alternate realities…  It’s so mainstream that most people would never consider it speculative fiction or “genre,” but of course it is.  And like any good fantasy, the story isn’t merely about ghosts or time travel because they’re nifty; it uses the fantasy elements to tell a story about much more basic and important things: love, how our choices affect the world and our own hearts, what it means to be human…  And the story explores these issues in ways that a purely “realistic” setting might not allow.  Just as it takes the unearthly spirits to break through Ebenezer Scrooge’s world-wise shell, so it sometimes takes a story that asks us to suspend our disbelief before we can break through our own world-wise shells.
        So if you celebrate Christmas, let me wish you a Merry one that breaks through and goes a little deeper than the “reality” of commercials and busy parking lots and malls.  And whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you a clear-eyed imagination that’s willing to see beneath surface appearances to the magic beneath.

[Pictures: Marley’s Ghost, wood engraving by Sol Eytinge,
In the Churchyard, wood engraving by Eytinge, both from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1869.(Images photographed by Philip V. Allingham at The Victorian Web)]

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