Tuesday, December 28, 2010

And the Winning Godless Atheist Christmas Card of the Year is . . .

As long-time readers of this blog know, one of the most cherished traditions in my household is choosing the winner of the annual Godless Atheist Christmas Card of the Year competition.  And what a fabulous year it's been for Christmas cards totally devoid of religious content!  So much so that cards that would have been contenders in ordinary years were eliminated early.

Science fiction people made a strong showing this year.   Tom Purdom's photograph of the monument to the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution in Washington Square, Philadelphia, was disqualified because the eternal flame has an inherently religious significance.  Even though within a year of its creation, the flame went out because it was choked by fat from homeless people roasting hot dogs on it.  Alexis and Lee Gilliland's ribald cartoon of Santa Claus with a bluefin tuna bulging from his trousers in an obscene manner was disqualified because even naughty Santas are too strongly associated with Christmas.  Beth Gwinn's retro-fifties pomo-ironic Give Peas A Chance card would have been a strong contender but, alas, it's a card she has sent us in an earlier year while the spirit of Godless Atheism is evergreen, ever new, and always comes as a surprise.

Similarly, a Currier and Ives card which I thought had nothing to do with the season other than snow and oxen was voted down by the Blue Ribbon And Not at All Nepotistic Jury of my immediate family because it was drenched with nostalgia.  A Hokusai owl was voted down for being so beautiful as to be inherently spiritual.  Which I thought a little dodgy, but who am I to argue with Hokusai and my wife?  Relatives Dick and Penny's card with pix of themselves, mountain goats, and Mount Rushmore, was disqualified simply because it had the message "Joy and Love."  It was, as I said, a brutally competitive year.

Finally, the competition came down to three cards.

The first to go down was the card from perennial favorites John and Judith Clute, a reproduction of one of Judith's artworks, this one of a Pacific Northwest-ish raven.  Here, Marianne argued eloquently for the inherent spiritual nature of the work.  "Ravens," she said, "a murder of crows, a congregation.  It's essentially Christian."  Also, "It's beautiful and I like it a lot."

Number two went right to the wire.  Sean voted one way and Marianne the other.  It was left up to me to break the tie and I have to say that Karl and Janet Kofoed's Christmas on Enceladus only lost by a whisker.  The "plumes of ice particles that rise like curtains into the dark airless skies above Saturn's inner moon" were lovely but the bleak, black lunar surface looking like nothing so much as frozen seas of gasoline . . . well, it fit the bill.  Finally, I ruled that cosmic wonder is a nonbeliever's version of religious awe.  So I set it aside in favor of the winner.

Which was the creation of last-year's first-time winner Jason Van Hollander.  His wrap-around card depicted a very JVH-ish fantasy/horror port city on the docks of which stand Fafhrd and a distinctly rat-faced Gray Mouser.  The closest things to religious elements anywhere in the card are what appear to be an imp imprisoned within a milk bottle and what Marianne declared was surely Yog-Sothoth.

Has the long reign of the Clutes come to an end?  It begins to look like what was once unthinkable is now a fait accompli.  Congratulations, Jason!

Not above:  I don't publish artwork without permission, so I can't show you Jason's card.  But you can go to his website here and see lots of his work.  Very cool stuff!



Matthew Brandi said...

"A Hokusai owl was voted down for being so beautiful as to be inherently spiritual."

Aw, come on! As the godless atheist's godless atheist (and having reacted with anger & bafflement to being called "very spiritual"), I have to speak out against this sort of thing: I think it has [insert virtue here], so it is not innocent of religious content. That's not merely slightly dodgy, Michael.

As for ravens--delightful birds (I've a soft spot for corvids)--being essentially Christian, has anyone told Odin? And I suppose Athens' patron goddess could claim the owl. But after all, a god's a god, so maybe right call for the wrong reason.

And victory to Fafhrd (devotee of Issek of the Jug & creation/alter ego of a sometime theology student and lay preacher) and Yog-Sothoth (what do you mean "only a fictional god"?)? Well, words fail me! ;)

Happy new year,


Matthew Brandi said...

The above not meant as a sleight on JVH's work, of course.

Of the JVH covers on my bookshelf, my favourite is New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, and I'm pretty sure it was his artwork that made me pick up Frederic Durbin's Dragonfly.

David Stone said...

"Yuletide in Nehwon" would make an awesome challenge for a short-short fiction contest.

Michael Swanwick said...

Any major award will, alas, generate controversy. However, the findings of the Blue Ribbon Not At All Nepotistic Panel of Family are not only infallible but beyond reproach.

As has been verified by the most reputable verification source imaginable. Which is . . .

Tom Lawrence said...

I should have sent you a Hogswatch card. Bugger.

JJM said...

Even if the artist was Hokusai, the owl is still the symbol of Athena, and thus religious. I'm voting with you here, Michael.

But I'm hoping hoping hoping you can get permission to publish a graphic of the two finalists: Christmas on Enceladus, which sounds lovely; and Mouser and Fafhrd and the Bottle Imp. (Surely that was meant to be a bottle imp, not Yog-Sothoth? Of course, not having seen it ... )