Imagine a world in which the iconic and beloved Santa Claus has a bad credit score, and his fellow Elves won’t even invite him to the annual Christmas parties. Written by Jodi Barnes, Santa Breaks Bad offers a fresh take on Christmas miracles all the while taking iconic Christmas figures and flipping them upside down. Could you imagine Santa Claus in jail? Or is that too modern?
In fifteen short flash chapters, Barnes manages to develop rich backstories for her characters, whether they be full of hilarity or hints of sadness. One of the many hilarious characterizations in the flash novel, Mrs. Claus dubs herself with a “hip” new name and face—Miz C no longer maintains a sweet loving identity but rather one full of Botox and affairs with the Joker and the Green Goblin. Barnes also includes other characters who are not traditional to the Christmas canon, like the infamous Snooki from the MTV show The Jersey Shore, and a wonderful character by the name of Carmelita.
Barnes takes her flash novel through a journey—a journey in which her characters develop at a fast pace, yet they become familiar like old friends, and every time you meet you learn something new from an old story. The curiously short chapters, a prominent factor of the flash novel, challenge Barnes to bring many difficult story elements together quickly, which she manages to do gracefully and humorously.
Furthermore, the main goal of the novel is to illuminate the very traditional Christmas moral: good is everywhere and it should be spread; a theme that is illuminated through most of Barnes’ work. One of the most prevalent points that Barnes makes is that being a good person is a choice. Though Barnes writes how “even an unabridged history of Carmelita would not have explained her immense capacity for empathy and forgiveness,” the history of Carmelita’s capacity for goodness does not matter as Carmelita shapes her character on future decisions to do good. Even the super villain Lex Luthor joins in on the fun and makes good things happen, even if it is for his temporary benefit.
Humorously written within the traditional Christmas spirit, Barnes manages to bring a refreshing new twist to classic characters. Though the take is far from traditional—with Santa Claus going to jail and all—it offers a more humanistic version of Santa and his North Pole companions. But why would this be important? Since Barnes is an author that believes in spreading love and good feelings, it makes sense to remake everyday tales and have characters come to life to show they are just as flawed as we all are.
Jodi Barnes’s flash fiction can be found on 100 Word Story, Prime Number, Wigleaf’s Top 50, Camroc Press Review and Fictionaut Editor’s Eye. Her short-short stories have made finalist on Glimmer Train, Sixfold, and in Press 53’ s Open Awards. Her chapbook, unsettled (Main Street Rag), was runner-up for the Oscar Arnold Young Award for best poetry book in North Carolina. Other poems are in Iodine Journal , Blue Collar Review, and in several anthologies. She founded 14 Words for Love, small literary acts for human kindness.