The winter holidays bring out the creativity in people. I don’t know why exactly, but my current theory is that time of year is steeped in myth. Modern myths. Old myths. Truly ancient myths. The birth of the Christians’ Messiah being only one of the more recent entrants.
The Russians have Snegurka (“Snow Maiden”) and Dedushka Moroz (“Old Man (or Father) Frost”). The English, Old Man Winter and Jack Frost. The Norse had Vetr (Old Norse, “Winter”).1
There are older myths, too. For some, we have only fragments.2
In spring and summer we can ignore our own mortality. But winter suffers no fools. The elements can truly kill you if you aren’t careful – and even if you are. As the days get shorter and shorter, leading up to the Winter Solstice, even we secular humanists start looking for meaning in the world. Once it is officially “winter,” we know we have made it half way to the warmth, life, and rebirth of Spring.
What I most enjoy about this time of year – other than the food – are the retellings of myths. A number of authors I know have done some interesting things around Santa Claus in particular. In no particular order:
Charles Stross: “Overtime”
Jim Hines: “Frosty”
Nerd Rage: “Frost-Born”
Penny Arcade: “The Last Christmas”
There are many more. These are just a few of my more recent favorites.
1. If you trace these things back far enough, some of them converge. [return]
2. Presumably their adherents have long since frozen to death. [return]
PNAS: “A thin polymer membrane, nano-suit, enhancing survival across the continuum between air and high vacuum.” Abstract:
Most multicellular organisms can only survive under atmospheric pressure. The reduced pressure of a high vacuum usually leads to rapid dehydration and death. Here we show that a simple surface modification can render multicellular organisms strongly tolerant to high vacuum. Animals that collapsed under high vacuum continued to move following exposure of their natural extracellular surface layer (or that of an artificial coat-like polysorbitan monolaurate) to an electron beam or plasma ionization (i.e., conditions known to enhance polymer formation). Transmission electron microscopic observations revealed the existence of a thin polymerized extra layer on the surface of the animal. The layer acts as a flexible “nano-suit” barrier to the passage of gases and liquids and thus protects the organism. Furthermore, the biocompatible molecule, the component of the nano-suit, was fabricated into a “biomimetic” free-standing membrane. This concept will allow biology-related fields especially to use these membranes for several applications.
PNAS May 7, 2013 vol. 110 no. 19 7631-7635.
This is going in my next short story. I’m calling it “Nudes in Space.”