The Magic of Christmas: An Advent Calendar of Fantasy Fiction

It’s that time of year again, and it’s hard to think about the holidays, particularly Christmas, without thinking of fantasy. Whether or not you’re religious or Christian, the story of Jesus' birth is full of fantastical elements, from the angels to the star to the three Magi. Moving to the secular (or perhaps pagan) side of things, Santa Claus is nothing but fantastical--flying reindeer, elves (which rather resemble gnomes), a fat man fitting down a chimney, and so on. Then there’s perhaps the most famous novel about Christmas, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which has, of course, ghosts.

It’s no surprise, then, that Christmas continues to be explored by fantasy writers. The myths and legends of Christmas provide a rich source of inspiration for new tales. And the season can be mined for its emotion and themes, and perhaps for the strange and wonderful mix of energies. 

Most Christmas books on the fantasy side tend to be for children. Take, for example, the Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffman. Before Tchaikovsky adapted the story for the ballet, the book told the story of a young girl whose nutcracker comes alive and which involves her in a struggle between mice and dolls.

L. Frank Baum, of The Wizard of Oz fame, also wrote a book called The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, about the origins of Santa Claus. Baum applies his typical whimsy to the tale, weaving Santa Claus’s story with demons and gnomes and faeries.

Santa Claus, or at least his English counterpart, is also covered in Letters from Father Christmas, a series of fictional letters written by J. R. R. Tolkien and sent to his kids, eventually collected into a book. In it Santa deals with polar bears as well as fighting off goblins. Tolkien also illustrated the letters.

Adult holiday fiction seems to be mostly confined to short stories. The great Connie Willis herself has written many stories about Christmas, several of which are collected in one volume entitled Miracle and Other Stories.The fabulous Gene Wolfe wrote a series of holiday stories, including stories for Christmas Eve and Christmas, now collected in the book, Castle of Days, along with some essays and other material. In fact, as I started looking at the Christmas stories out there, I was surprised by how many I found. 

The Fantasy Fiction Advent Calendar

I’ve always loved Advent Calendars. I’m not very religious, but the idea of counting down to the holiday, opening a door every day and getting a surprise, is one that always appealed to me. So this, then is my holiday gift to you--an advent calendar of fantasy fiction*, one for each day of December leading up to Christmas. And since you’re already behind, you better get caught up. Come back daily, if you like, to get a new holiday story. And all of them are free:

Day 1: "A Woman’s Best Friend" by Robert Reed - A riff on It’s a Wonderful Life 

Day 2: "The Christmas Mummy" by Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt - Two words: Christmas Ninjas. 

Day 3: "The Sugarplum Favor" by Tad Williams - a modern Christmas fairy tale. 

Day 4: "If Dragon’s Mass Eve be Cold and Clear" by Ken Scholes - Well, the accompanying art shows Santa with a huge sword. 

Day 5: "The Grimnoir Chronicles: Detroit Christmas" by Larry Correia - set in an alternate history 1930 where people have magical talents.

Day 6: "Candy Art" by James Patrick Kelly - A woman’s parents move in with her. Of course they share a body. 

Day 7: "Miracle" by Connie Willis - A woman encounters the spirit of Christmas Present. The gift kind of present. 

Day 8: "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" by L. Frank Baum - When five daemons fail to tempt Santa Claus, they instead kidnap him. Also, faeries. 

Day 9: "Matchless: A Christmas Story" by Gregory Maguire - A reimagination of Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl.” 

Day 10: "Wolf Christmas" by Daniel Pinkwater - Christmas from the point of view of a family of wolves. 

Day 11: "Chip Crockett's Christmas Carol" by Elizabeth Hand - inspired by A Christmas Carol and centered around the death of a children's television presenter. 

Day 12: "England under the White Witch" by Theodora Goss - An alternate history taking place in post-WWI England with the White Witch in charge. 

Day 13: "The Bear with the Quantum Heart" by Renee Carter Hall - A Pinocchio-like story about an artificial creature and his human companion. 

Day 14: "Christmas Season" by Jay Lake - A short tale about a hunting trip. 

Day 15: "Merry Christmas" by Stephen Leacock - A tale from 1914 about Father Time and Christmas. 

Day 16: "The Ghost of Christmas Possible" by Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt - Another riff on A Christmas Carol

Day 17: "Christmas Eve at Harvey Wallbanger’s" by Mike Resnick - A pulpy, supernatural story about a bet in a bar. 

Day 18: "Julian: A Christmas Story" by Robert Charles Wilson - A futuristic dystopian tale where America has regressed. 

Day 19: "Here Comes Santa Claus" by K. D. Wentworth - A Christmas story set in Eric Flint’s world of 1632. 

Day 20: "Santacide" by Eliot Fintushel - A futuristic story told in a great style. 

Day 21: "The Gift" by Christie Yant - A short tale about a man’s surprise Christmas gifts for his family.  

Day 22: "Brass Canaries" by Gwendolyn Clare - A story about, and told by, brass canaries. 

Day 23: "Christmas Wedding" by Vylar Kaftan - An interesting wedding in a post-apocalyptic future. 

Day 24: "Sarah’s Sister" by John Scalzi -  A touching holiday story. Watch out for tears. 

* Some of these might be considered science fiction, but I apply the term “fantasy” loosely.

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Rajan Khanna

Column by Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna is a fiction writer, blogger, reviewer and narrator. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, is due to be released in October 2014. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at and and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in New York where he's a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. His personal website is and he tweets, @rajanyk.

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Heidi Ash's picture
Heidi Ash from Dallas/Fort Worth area is reading 1Q84, Bloodfire Quest, Anathem December 6, 2012 - 10:59am

This is a great list! Thanks for sharing! My favorite holiday fantasy is Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. Every couple years I sit down and read it over the holiday break and giggle. 

rajanyk's picture
rajanyk December 6, 2012 - 1:24pm

Thanks for sharing, Heidi. I noticed that they made a movie of the Hogfather. Did you ever see it? And if so, how does it compare to the book?