It's January, so once again the Not At All Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Family has convened to deliberate on which of the many honorable attempts will be 2014's Godless Atheist Christmas Card of the Year.
As always, it was a contentious process. I, for one, felt that cards actively promoting demonology or even Satanism ought to be allowed in the competition. Marianne adamantly believed that in opposition they asserted at least the existence of a Deity. Finally, she won the day by pointing out that the immortal Jason Van Hollander's Hell Stamps mailing was not actually a holiday card but a gift tag accompanying a work of art. Similarly, John and Judith Clute's card, always a contender, was ruled spiritual by the inclusion of what we believe to be Raven's image. The fact that the card also featured people screaming in terror was ruled irrelevant.
Other cards escaped the honor by the flimsiest of rationales. One art card featuring the sender's oil of woods in autumn was deemed to imply the season of winter by evoking a scene within three months of it. The Edgar Allen Poe card was ruled Christmasy by the fact that Poe was wearing a scarf and his raven a nightcap similar to Santa's. The Cthulhu Claus card was the victim of similar solipsism. My sister's card featuring a trophy mount of Rudolph's head was judged to be too similar to a winning card she sent in a prior year.
Finally, the judging came down to two cards -- neither of which anybody wanted to disqualify. But my suggestion that we declare a tie was hooted down by the panel. "No wonder nobody respects liberals!" Sean declared in exasperation. Our friend Li's card, showing an alien hellscape dominated by a science fictional city built entirely of kitchen utensils was not only the first card we received by a front-runner throughout.
But at last, in a split decision ( this almost never happens!), a winner was chosen: Photographer Beth Gwinn's breathtaking Poinsettia Patty card.
(Beth Gwinn took two author photographs of me -- which I use for the insides of dust jackets and the like -- so good that I've resolved to stop aging, simply so that I never have to replace them with inferior portraits. She's really a brilliant photographer. You can visit her website here.)
Beth's photograph won despite utilizing poinsettias (a plant associated with Christmas) because of the model's air of haughty disregard and the high degree of design and beauty put into the service of a most un-Christmasy sentiment, and because the message inside ("...HAVE YOUR POINSETTIAS SPAYED OR NEUTERED THIS HOLIDAY SEASON") managed to seamlessly insert the theme of castration into a holiday card.
Well done, Ms Gwinn! Your vintage Marvel no-prize is winging its way through to aether to you at this very moment.
Above: Seriously, those in need an author photo should check out Beth Gwinn's work. I'm delighted with how good she made me look.