After Christmas Fiction

Pop Fiction

TWAS THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS. . . .

Many people are off work the week between Christmas and New Year’s– and this year many are out of work– and given winter weather in many parts of the world containing our audience– and with the lockdowns– many are stuck at home regardless. Which means it’s an ideal time to read a Day-After-Christmas story, “The Huffy” by Richard Daub, about– what else– a gift gone awry. Give it a read.

“They got you a Huffy?” Eric laughed, referring to Carl’s new bike. “Huffys are for losers. Did they buy it at Sears?”

“I don’t know,” Carl said, knowing they probably did. His mother always took them to Sears to buy school clothes. “I asked for a Mongoose.”

In Massapequa, Mongoose was the Corvette of BMX bikes, while their “Supergoose” model was like a Ferrari. Huffys were like a Le Car.

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(Art: “The Christmas Hamper” by Robert Braithwaite Martineau.)

Tale of the Christmas Bear 2020

Pop Fiction

(YET ANOTHER REPRISE OF A NEW POP LIT CHRISTMAS STORY.)

jamestissotthejourneyofthemagi

THREE MEN were having trouble lugging their packages across the desert from afar, and came across a depressed bear. Depressed because there wasn’t much to do for a bear in the desert. A bear in a desert? Anyway, the bear was feeling purposeless and alone, and didn’t know if he could “bear it” much longer.

“Why oh why oh why oh why?” he asked, in bear talk.

The three men saw the bear lying in the sand, moaning, with his paws over his head. The three looked at one another.

 “After all, it is Christmas,” one of them said, with a perplexed look in his eyes.

“Yes, it is,” one of the other three said.

 “Yes!” said the third. “It truly is. It really really is.”

 He took his smartphone from his robes and looked at it. Yep, there it was. December 24th. Christmas Eve. Year 0000.

“It’s decided then,” the three said simultaneously, and wondered that the three of them, each from a separate faraway land, had said the same thing.

So together in one voice they asked the despondent animal if he’d like to try “bearing” something useful– their heavy packages of gold, frankincense, and myrrh– to a destination in Bethlehem. The packages were in fact quite heavy and overburdening the camels. Encountering the bear was a fortunate occurrence. Almost miraculous. The bear gladly agreed, as the three men seemed particularly wise to him. He’d seen men before, who were not wise. Not wise at all. But these men were.

The little caravan continued on to Bethlehem until they found shepherds and animals congregated outside a tiny stable behind an inn. The three wise men strode in, bearing their gifts, while the bear quietly crept in behind them and took a place in the straw beside the other animals, who were first alarmed because, after all, he was a bear. But then they looked at the baby and weren’t alarmed at all.

 From that day forward the bear was always forever more a happy bear.

 THE END

fraangelicaoadorationofthemagi

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from New Pop Lit!

 -Karl Wenclas and Kathleen M. Crane
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(Paintings: “The Journey of the Magi” by James Tissot; “Adoration of the Magi” by Fra Angelico.)

The Art of Narrative

Pop Lit Fiction

AN EXAMPLE OF SHORT STORY ARTISTRY

Our new fiction feature is about a church in the woods. A simple story which shows what can be done with the short story by keeping it simple. What matters most with this particular writing genre– the short story– is not how many well-wrought sentences and long paragraphs you can string together as an example of talent– but the form of a particular story. Its construction. Design. Momentum. Flow.

NOT MUCH MORE can be said about this particular tale, “The Narrow Path,” by Zach Smith, without giving away the key to its plot. Suffice it to say it’s in the tradition of classic short stories from when the short story was THE popular American art form. When the form of the story was all. When story endings were the point of the works, as exhibited by masters of the art such as O. Henry, Jack London, or Frank Stockton.

There’s a clue somewhere within the last part of the previous paragraph– about the story’s plot– if you can find it!

(Note: It’s also a Christmas story.)

The church is two stories, taller than it is wide, without a second floor. A taut wire, an inch in diameter stretches from wall to wall, ten feet above the pews, with a second shorter wire intersecting it above the altar.

The door opens for Sunday service, and the congregation files in. The church is open to everyone, but few people come, less and less every year.

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(Art: “Deer in Forest” by Franz Marc; “Indian Church” by Emily Carr.)

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Announcement

EASY CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

Want an easy way to Christmas shop? Simply purchase our flagship publication, ZEENITH, at our Pop Shop, and in the Ship To part of the order enter the name and address of the person you wish to receive the gift.

Why ZEENITH?

Because everything about the issue is first rate– a literary publication unlike any that’s ever been created. Not a book. Instead: a work of art, featuring top-notch writing along with striking illustrations and graphics. Each page is an adventure unto itself.

Not only that, but we’re sending each copy this time of year in special silver envelopes, so the recipient knows they’re receiving something truly unique. We’ll include inside the package a holiday “From: To:” note, to be sure they know the gift was sent care of YOU. (We’ll also throw in a “pop” postcard or two.)

an order ready to go out

ZEENITH is the perfect gift for intelligent friends, for high school or college-age sons or daughter, nieces or nephews, or for artistically-curious aunts, uncles, even parents or grandparents. (Far better than a scarf or tie!)

Let’s do it! Order your copy now at our POP SHOP.

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A Pop-Lit Circus

Announcement

MUCH IS HAPPENING!

FIRST is our new feature story, “Just Another Silly Love Song” by Nick Gallup.

SECOND is our Reading Challenge! inviting any and all readers and writers to peruse the Nick Gallup story alongside one of the New Yorker magazine’s latest, by much-awarded author George Saunders, and compare them.

NEXT, our nominations for this year’s Pushcart Prize– a fantastic opportunity to reread the offerings.

WE ALSO have a new print zeen, Crime City USA, available now at our POP SHOP.

buy it now!

FINALLY, a big thank you to all those who’ve checked out our site or contributed to it. The goal has been to get through 2020 come hell or high water and we’re doing it.

(Art: “At the Circus” and “Dancers” by Pierre Bonnard.)

Elements of the Pop Story

Pop Lit Fiction

FINDING A BETTER MODEL

WHICH elements will be required to create “hit” short stories that can grab the attention of large swaths of the public?

Some of them are present in our latest short story by Nick Gallup, “Just Another Silly Love Song.” Such as: two dynamic lead characters with strikingly different personalities; tangible details used to emphasize those personalities (a red Corvette; a black cocktail dress); a well-structured and unified plot with built-in conflict, nothing extraneous, which maintains focus throughout– and much else.

Add to these elements a sense of depth: the two lead characters displaying, well, character– the ability to move beyond themselves in helping others– and you have for the reader a perfect mix. Oh, did I also mention the element of love? That ultimate ingredient in crafting compelling art?

But the best way to know what we’re talking about is to read the story.

Roxy looked a mess. She took note of my looking and correctly interpreted my conclusions. “Sorry I don’t look party-perfect, Ty,” she said sarcastically, with heavy emphasis on Ty, as if it were an affectation. “An unexpected problem came up. I had to don a cap and gown and wash all my make-up off to avoid infection.” She held up slender hands. “Want to know where these have been for the past two hours?”

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(Art: “Return of a Night Bombing Flight of Voisin Aircraft” by Francois Flemeng.)

Vampires and Gravediggers

Pop Fiction

WHO’S AFRAID OF VAMPIRES?

Are you?

What could me more in tune with October and the Halloween season than a story about gravediggers looking for vampires?

The story is “Vampire Hunt” by Geoff Orens. We promise it’s not scary!

We turned on our flashlights and walked over to the plot. There, Paul Smith’s grave was still a bunch of turned over dirt. Jeremy Sylvester passed out some garlic while Frank and Clarence proceeded to dig up the coffin. I did feel nervous that someone was going to catch us, but I was also excited to see what an actual vampire would look like. 

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(Featured art: “The Vampire” by Philip Burne-Jones, plus a movie poster c/o Universal Studios.)

Murder Ballads: New Poetry

Poetry

HALLOWEEN draws closer! So today we present at least one poem with a Halloween theme, along with another that’s creepy, and a third which, well, you’ll have to read it. The feature is titled “Life of Murder Ballads and Other Poems” and the poet is John Tustin. Please enjoy.

Living my night of murder ballads, Frankenstein’s Monster
And the poetry of Poe
While you imagine your heart rests in black lipstick and torn fishnet hose.

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(Art: “I Love Eva” by Pablo Picasso.)

Angels and Demons

Pop Fiction

WITH HALLOWEEN soon upon us, we’re considering briefly the idea of angels and demons. Are they mere metaphors for the emotions of good and evil– or unseen forces influencing us in mysterious ways?

As Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Which brings us to our new fiction feature, “Fatima” by Karl Miller. Novella-length noir in which a pair of insurance investigators look into two deaths at a construction site. There is more to the deaths than appears at first glance– and more to the story. Not your typical detective tale. We know you’ll enjoy it.

Next to an overturned fourteen-foot aluminum fishing boat, its engine blade stopped in a last futile cut at the air, two fully-clothed bodies, face down, gently moved back and forth with the motion of the waves.

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(Art: “Demon Seated” by Mikhail Vrubel.)

Virtual Insanity

Pop Lit Fiction

HAVE WE ALL LOST OUR MINDS?

ELECTRONIC MEDIA has graced us with bombardments of information coming at us from all directions, all sides, stimulating our curiosity at the same time making us believe we’re missing something if we don’t remain plugged in– and we’re all plugged in. The digital world, brilliantly described in Oliver Bennett‘s new short fiction piece, “On the Origin of An Event,” our newest feature. A descent into– ? You know the analogy.

he would wake up early, quickly dip into the news as he waited for the kettle to boil, then try to stay up to date on everything throughout the day, immersing himself in international relations on the toilet, taking a deep dive into the history of every major world power on the tube to work, and even the smaller countries in a brief lull between meetings, and he would wade through an article on finance while waiting for the office microwave to ping– credit swaps, interest rates, collateral debt obligations, inflation, deflation, stagflation…

We haven’t run many features this year, but they’ve all been terrific.

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Of course, the pandemic with its lockdowns and Zoom sessions has only accelerated the retreat from the actual.

IS there escape from the madness? A question we’ve begun exploring as we consider the future of this project and try to plot out what 2021 for us, and for everybody, will look like.

Enjoy the story!

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(Art: “The Unfortunate Land of Tyrol” by Franz Marc; “Stormtroopers” by Otto Dix.)