Yesterday was St. Nicholas Day in Germany (for an explanation, see last year’s post). I got thirteen St. Nicholas Day trick-or-treaters at my door this year and handed out Kinder Surprise Eggs. One of the kids was a toddler who still had to crawl up the stairs to the house, though he did manage a short poem.
St Nicholas Day is mainly a North German and Dutch phenomenon, but apparently the tradition does survive in parts of the US that were settled by German and Dutch emigrants. I recently came across the novella The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt’s Wood by Kathleen Valentine which features a St. Nicholas type figure called Belsnickel who lives in the woods and emerges on December 6 to bring presents to the kids in the parts of Pennsylvania that were originally settled by German immigrants. It’s fascinating how some traditions survive even in a different country. The novella is very enjoyable, too.
And now for some links:
At SFFWRTCHT, Bryan Thomas Schmidt has a short but interesting post musing about the appeal of the outcast hero in urban fantasy. I agree with him, though in my opinion the outcast and loner heroes of classic hardboiled and noir crime fiction are far more of an influence on today’s urban fantasy genre than the lone gunman heroes of the western genre. Finally, it’s great to see a man talking about urban fantasy without condescension and actually mentioning women writers as example. Because if men talk about urban fantasy, they usually manage to mention only male writers as examples for good urban fantasy, even though the subgenre is dominated by women.
ETA: In the comments, Bryan Thomas Schmidt points out that the post is actually by Sarah Hendrix. It’s well worth reading at any rate.
Sarah Wendell explains why romance novels are important in an interview at GalTime.
From romance to sex: Here is an older article by Barbara Kingsolver about the difficulty of writing sex scenes, originally from the New York Times.
The Washington Post has an interesting article about Karolyn Grimes, the child actress who played the youngest kid Zuzu in the Christmas film classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Turns out that she had never even seen the film, until she happened to catch a glimpse of it on TV thirty years later.
I must say I’ve never understood the appeal of It’s a Wonderful Life. There are some lovely vintage Hollywood Christmas movies – for example, I adore We’re No Angels and Christmas in Connecticut, which also offers some unconventional gender roles for a classic Hollywood movie. But It’s a Wonderful Life is just a sappy propaganda film, ironically made a year after the end of World War II, and a sentimental praise of mediocrity. As for James Stewart a.k.a. the worst banker ever (well, the uncle or whatever he is who loses the money in the first place is worse) giving home loans to people who have no securities, just because they seem like nice people – uhm, that actually explains a lot about the real estate bubble and the current financial crisis in the US.