This was a month in which I took a step back from the Internet and focused on my larger projects. Plus the usual Christmassy stuff, too – or at least as much as “usual Christmassy stuff” could ever apply to 2020. I hope to have an update on how my projects are coming along soon; but for now, I’ll be brief and wish everyone a new year that improves on its predecessor.
My weekly Killer Horror Critic column on werewolf films has reached one of the oddest lycanthropes in genre history: the Jackalman, who debuted in an obscure number called The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals...
The penultimate post in my retrospective of Charlee Jacob’s extreme horror fiction is now live at WWAC:
Season of the Witch was nearly the last Charlee Jacob novel to be published (only one more, Containment, was to follow), yet it was the first that she wrote. She penned it in the ’80s, after which it remained a “trunk novel” until 2016. Jacob evidently revised the manuscript to some extent prior to its publication, as shown by its references to such post-eighties cultural phenomena as Internet porn, Scream, and the Black Eyed Peas, but it nonetheless has the feel of a throwback about it. In many ways Season of the Witch is closer to Jacob’s 1997 debut novel This Symbiotic Fascination than to anything she published since then.
Despite being transgender myself, I tend not to write a great deal about trans-related topics. That’ll change soon, as I could hardly let 2020 end without some sort of commentary on what must surely be the year’s most widely-read essay on transgender matters: the 3670-word blog post formally entitled “J. K. Rowling writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues” but more widely known as the “TERF Wars” essay, after a phrase Rowling used when linking to it on Twitter.
Much has already been written about this essay since Rowling published it back in June, and given that the post recently won its author a Russell Prize for Best Writing, I doubt that debate will be ebbing any time soon. But while I can’t promise I’ll be saying anything exactly groundbreaking about the piece, I can at least attempt to discuss it in as much depth as I can.
My plan is to run a series of blog posts – lasting into 2021 – that use J. K. Rowling’s TERF Wars essay as a gateway to the Augean stable that is mainstream transgender discourse (particularly mainstream British transgender discourse). Each post in the series will examine a different aspect of the essay, with one question above all others in my mind: how did we end up here?
Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle – call him what you will, the development of this composite folkloric figure has been pretty thoroughly mapped. Much has been written about how authors like Washington Irving, Clement Clarke Moore and Robert Lewis May, along with artists like Thomas Nast and Haddon Sundblom, helped to develop the popular image of Santa: name an aspect of Santa’s persona, and the origin typically won’t be hard to trace.
There’s a notable exception to this, however. When, exactly, did Santa first say “ho ho ho”? A search on Google will reveal discussions about why he goes “ho ho ho” rather than, say, “ha ha ha” (consensus is that “ho ho ho” indicates general joviality, while “ha ha ha” could be construed as laughing in mockery) but little or nothing about when “ho ho ho” became the officially-sanctioned Santa laugh.
So, I decided to finish my trip through festive history by researching the question myself.
It’s become an annual tradition for me. I did it in 2018, I did it in 2019, and now I’m doing the same for 2020: a month-by-month review of the creative images which, for one reason or another, sparked outrage over the course of the year. Offensive? Inoffensive? I have my opinions, but once again, you’ll be free to judge for yourself (and as it should go without saying, some of these are NSFW)…
January: Flying the Flag for Wuhan
Near the start of this year the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten (of Mohammed-with-a-bomb-on-his-bonce fame) ran a cartoon by Niels Bo Bojeson in which the coronavirus replaced the yellow stars of the Chinese flag. The Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen called upon the paper to apologise on the grounds that the cartoon lacked “sympathy and empathy” for the 81 people in China who had lost their lives to the virus at that point. Some of the paper’s critics on social media posted parodies of the Danish flag lampooning, amongst other things, the country’s suicide rate and its surrender in World War II.