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= The Christmas Clock by John T. Cullen=

A Dark Holiday Fantasy

Ray Bradbury in January 2008 sent John a personal note, congratulating him and saying that Ray loved reading The Christmas Clock. Ray thanked him for writing this dark holiday fantasy worthy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, or of Ray Bradbury's macabre yet heartwarming tales.

Arthur Latchloose, a miserable, wealthy old banker, has everything--but has nobody. A modern genie with a cell phone, and a wondrous clock made for the Sun King, turn his world upside down.This is a dark holiday fantasy for men and women of all faiths and cultures, which loses nothing from its unique Christmas spirit while opening its doors of wonder and spooky humor (along with a few tears) to all.

Each of us is a traveler in a river of time. Like fish in water, or merfolks patrolling the deep, we are unaware of the medium in which we travel. We are born, we grow up--we love, lose, and love again--we suffer; and ultimately, each of us becomes yet another discarded vessel among the objects that time’s rushing river has deposited in its empty riverbed. This, you see, is a river that only passes once through any point in time.

In his hour of need, our friend Arthur Latchloose, by a strange confluence of fate and chance, comes upon a marvelous device that runs precious time through its hands. This wondrous, antique grandfather clock was built for the Sun King, and ended up passing among the hands of Oriental despots for centuries.

During the recent many unfortunate wars in that mystical region, it came into the clutches of a desperate straggler—from yet another of the many wars there. This unfortunate soul, Major Jarlid, upon returning home from the war, is forced to sell it to pay his final debts. His buyer turns out to be a terribly wealthy but equally desperate and lonely man—our friend Arthur Latchloose.

Along with the fabulous clock of the Sun King comes a genie right out of a bottle on some Oriental beach. He is, one might say, not a spirit to be rubbed the wrong way. But this djinni has not met the likes of feisty old Latchloose before now. And so begins a dark and curious tale, on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve.

It is a story best told by firelight, worthy of Mr. Charles Dickens, but without Tiny Tim Cratchett or wailing ghosts clanking in chains. Instead, we have a modern genie constantly talking on his cell phone, working on contract and harried by his London office. Just as Dickens' classic touched upon the dark side of our lives, so The Christmas Clock has special resonance for those whose families have been touched by alcoholism and some of the resulting wounds that stay with us for a lifetime

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Aside: Ray Bradbury and I. As a teenager, I opiated myself with wonders like The October Country, The Golden Apples of the Sun, and other masterpieces by this incredible poet and thinker whose writing could appeal to the everyday person as well as to the (real,not snob) poet. I will put Fahrenheit 451 in a category with great, imaginative works of art and ideas any day: like1984, Brave new World, and Lord of the Flies, to name just a few. Oh, I have to mention John Carpenter's 1988 They Live (he's another of my favorite directors). But to Ray Bradbury now. I never met him in person, but always admired him. I wrote him a fan letter at about age 15, and like Andre Norton (whom I had never met in person either, but in spirit yes), he sent me a nice reply. In it, he gave advice from his personal life that I saw him give to generations of aspiring writers, including: write a short story a week, no matter what. In 2007, on impulse, I sent him a copy of my dark seasonal fantasy, The Christmas Clock. In January 2008, I received from him a personal fan letter, praising my book and saying he had greatly enjoyed it. That's why I put his name with mine on the cover of that book. I think it's one he might have written in a kindred lifetime; at least, he showed us the way with his innovative and free roaming, breaking down genre barriers. Incidentally, he was one of the first authors (The Veldt, his amazing 1950 short story) to use virtual reality (VR); I used VR in my own 1990 SF novel now titled This Shoal of Space, where I introduced a massively parallel array of (then new) laptops or PCs as my aliens rebuild their lost starship in the ocean off a fictional California coastal city called San Tomas. That was before The Matrix