Monday, December 18, 2023

I've got a feeling this year's for me and you

Just one week to go before the big day!  Seven more sleeps till Christmas!

I'm gonna make this a bit of a holiday season catch-all post.  I actually have quite a bit I want to blurt out before the year is done.  Maybe.  If I have the mental endurance to get it all down.  Here goes... may recognize the source of the words in this post's title...the Pogues' classic holiday tune "Fairytale of New York."  I can't let the year pass without acknowledging the loss of a great soul just a few weeks back, the inimitable Shane MacGowan.

Image snagged from the Belfast Telegraph

Shane (I don't really think he'd mind my calling him Shane) was a poet extraordinaire, a brilliant observer of the human condition, and a man who owned his voice like no one else.

"Fairytale of New York" is one of the most beautiful of all Christmas songs and honestly maybe of ALL songs.  You don't hear it as much these days due to its inclusion of a homophobic slur.  And I really do get that; it's kind of grating to my lib ears every time I hear it.  And...well, I'm not even going to put a video of the song here because I'm afraid it'll offend someone.

I do recall reading a response from MacGowan about the controversy brought on by the line where he said something along the lines of "she's not a good person" (referring to the female character in the song who says the word).  (Note also that I haven't paused to find that source again, so I think I'm paraphrasing pretty accurately but may also be doing so incompletely.)

EDIT: Kelvin's comments (and link) below encouraged me to do a little digging to see if there is a "MacGowan-approved" edited version of the tune.  I haven't found that to be the case, BUT I did find the more complete quote (or a similar one) that I paraphrased above and though it was worth sharing (from HERE for one):

“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character. She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history, and she is down on her luck and desperate. Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it, but she is not intended to offend! She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable. Sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.”

I've come to think that this approach actually gets to the heart of the song's beauty, and indeed, the heart of what is so poetic about a lot of MacGowan's music.  He saw the flaws of humans and still told their stories with love and a recognition that we all have souls and dreams.  That's a perspective we could use more of.

He will be missed.

So what else is going on for Christmas?  Well, I just want to remind anyone reading this that they can go HERE to pick up a free holiday adventure about Santa's Elves fighting holiday abominations and trying to save Baby New Year.  So that's cool.  It was also written by me, so there's the caveat.
Reflecting on the various gaming items I've put out into the world, I think "In Bleakest Midwinter" has probably held up as one of the most useful and generally accessible.  In 2024, I hope to revisit it, "updating" as necessary and potentially altering the rules used/implied to fit in more with the system I'd like to adopt as a sort of "house system" for Monstrous Matters, a variation on the approach I started with my own fantasy heartbreaker way back when, and which will be connected to both 5E and OSR gaming.  Right now, I'm pretty drawn to the idea of a house system for the blog as one way of connecting the various threads I inevitably follow on here, no matter how much I try to focus on one thing.  So...we'll see how long it takes before this intention goes the same way as all the others...!

Pic from HERE, which also has a brief discussion of this little guy's Public Domain status
When I do make those changes, I also hope to spend a little bit of time exploring my own canon of holiday stories.  Justin's post over at Halls of the Nephilim on holiday adventures has a list I need to check (twice...har har har) to see if there are others I can fit into the same universe as the Elves of "In Bleakest Midwinter," and I'd love to build out a more complete mix of fiction to include.  This would obviously(!) start with the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and stack up from there, with the first continuity explanation necessary probably being why everyone at the North Pole is such an a-hole in that story.  And does Krampus fit in?  A Christmas Carol?  The Ghostbusters' encounter with Ebenezer Scrooge?  The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special?  If I'm actually able to stick to a focus on the Monstrous Heartbreaker as a unifying system, it may be a lot of fun to explore this as a segment of...the Monstrousverse...?

At any rate...I hope you enjoy your holiday season, everyone!!


  1. For what it's worth, MacGowan approved the edited version of "Fairytale of New York" so you can feel safe in sharing that one.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. Didn't realize that and may have to "correct" the post...thanks!

      Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

    2. I may have misremembered that in fact. MacColl sang a different version and the Pogues in general distanced themselves from the original lyrics, but MacGowan had a more complex attitude, as you summarise above. More detail here:

      I think I was getting it confused with MacGowan's response to "actor" Laurence Fox's complaint about the BBC playing the edited version. I won't link it here but MacGowan was not on Fox's side, but that was less about the song and more about Fox.

    3. I appreciate the follow-up and link! I'll do a little digging and see how it feels to post the edited version.

      It's entirely possible also that my view of altered lyrics to this song is highly skewed by my reaction to Jon Bon Jovi's version, which...well, I will not fault anyone for liking it, but I haven't met anyone who fits that description yet.

    4. I had no idea such a version existed, and now I am full of (festive) dread.

    5. Haha...if you do check it out, I'd love to know what you think!

      And...unfortunately I didn't find evidence that MacGowan gave a nod to any of the edited versions. (I think I did find the Laurence Fox bit that you referenced...and the Pogues' reaction to it...pretty funny, if "funny" fits there...)

      I was able to add in a more complete quote above regarding Shane's view of the controversy, however. And FWIW, I think my feelings about it are very similar to those in the tweet from Harrison Brocklehurst also quoted in the article:

      “[T]he word itself being in ‘Fairytale of New York’ doesn’t bother or offend me, but straight people being so angry and outraged at its removal and fighting and arguing for the right to sing it bothers me deeply.”

    6. I think that's a fair edit, and I'm also in agreement. Play and sing whichever version you like, but to *fight* for the original in ignorance of the potential harm is not a good look.