Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay are a husband and wife writing team who agree on almost everything except whether or not 28 Days Later should be considered a zombie movie. Though their career has been focused primarily on nonfiction work with the Deseret News and the website Bloody Good Horror, they have also been recognized for their fiction and poetry. After years devoted to books (like The Anatomy of Fear) and articles in which they championed the idea that the horror film genre should be taken seriously, they hope the idea is finally catching on. You can follow them at their blog, www.inthemargin.net.
In writing and marketing our book The Anatomy of Fear: Conversations with Cult Horror and Science-Fiction Filmmakers, we discovered that there’s little to be done about the niche popularity of the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres. Occasionally, something like Lord of the Rings or The Walking Dead connects with the zeitgeist, but more often than not it is the individual project that benefits rather than the subgenre overall. Luckily for the horror genre, however, there is a time of year when people embrace it. From the second week of October until Halloween night, people are a little more friendly towards the creepy and macabre, and even normally uptight friends and family are willing to watch and read and go to Halloween Horror Nights and haunted houses.
But what about science fiction? There is no time of the year when people’s thoughts turn naturally to malevolent robots or genetic manipulation; there is no color that the leaves can turn that reminds us of time travel or spaceships. Halloween gets a full three weeks of scariness, so what about sci-fi?
Sure, there’s May the Fourth, the Star Wars-themed holiday which began in 2011 due to the dedication of the fans (and the following day, Revenge of the Fifth, when the Sith Lords are out on the prowl). In fact, Star Wars has three days, because Los Angeles dedicated May 25th as Star Wars Day. That doesn’t really help the rest of the science fiction galaxy, though, because all the focus is on the Jedis, lightsabers, and the Force.
There is something to the dedication of the Star Wars fans, though. They got out and they made it happen. If only science fiction fans broadly could do the same. I mean, sure, we have National Science Fiction Day on January 2nd, in honor of the birthday of Isaac Asimov; the problem is, it’s not official in any way, and it isn’t recognized or declared by any government on Earth (or any other planet for that matter). In order to have it make a real impact, it needs to be an official holiday that the world celebrates.
The likelihood of getting any law through the American House and Senate is a joke given this modern political climate, so getting a new holiday recognized now is fairly unlikely. So if we want a holiday that everyone celebrates, perhaps we need to take a page from history.
When Constantine told everybody in 336 AD to start celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th, he did the smart thing: he chose a holiday that all the pagans were already celebrating and co-opted it. Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti were holidays that Roman pagans were already having a good time with, and Constantine wisely decided that rather than take away their celebration, he would just rename it. And apparently it stuck, because we’re still celebrating it seventeen hundred years later.
So that’s the plan: hijack a holiday that already exists and make it our own. Which one, though? Obviously people won’t go for swapping Christmas around again (we don’t have Constantine’s power and influence), and Valentine’s Day seems like a non-starter. Let’s think a little bit smaller.
February 7th is National Wear Red Day, where people are supposed to wear red in order to support women’s heart health. Maybe we could turn it into Red Shirt Day, and everyone dresses like one of the crewmen in Star Trek who beam down to the planet with the main cast and get killed to let everyone know how serious the situation is. Of course, that is a pretty narrow focus on sci-fi, and it might look callous to replace women’s heart health with a holiday celebrating the death of background actors. Moving on.
Every year, a day in March is Daylight Savings time, followed by another day in early November when Daylight Savings time ends. All of that shifting back and forth through time seems like it’s made precisely for those of us who love crazy technologies and time travel. Of course, parts of Arizona and Indiana, along with Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands already don’t observe Daylight Savings time, and we really need the backing of Guam to make this work, right? Okay, something else.
How about Equinox? In March, it’s the time of the year when day and night are of equal length, and more importantly, it sounds awesomely sci-fi (and is the name of a supremely weird special effects monster film from 1970). Of course, Equinox is not really a holiday, it’s just the name of an event that happens on a different day ever year; it’s also directly connected to Solstice, which is also pretty cool but sounds way more like a horror holiday.
There’s really only one day that fits. It comes right on the heels of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, nestled nicely in the fall holiday corridor. It is… Cyber Monday! Yes, I know it’s basically just a made-up day for websites to have sales like stores do on Black Friday, but let’s think this out: it only exists because of computers; it sounds spooky and futuristic and a little bit dangerous; and it causes people to spend hours in front of their computer screens, spending money uncontrollably for things they love. It’s perfect!
So call AMC and TNT and TBS and all the other networks that run marathons of boring movies because they know that no one is watching TV that soon after a holiday and DEMAND that they play our favorite Cyber-films! Call Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million and tell them that if they want real people to walk into their stores, they have to invite Dan Simmons to sign copies of Ilium at their store! We can make this happen! Long live Cyber Monday!