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This Christmas Eve, as you gather with family and wait for jolly old Saint Nick to come down to the chimney to leave gifts under the tree, I’m sure you’re wondering — how does Santa decide who gets presents and who gets coal? I set out to answer that question in my newest short story. “The Evidence for Coal” dives into the modernization of the Naughty or Nice List and it’s unintended consequences. Here’s a short excerpt (or you can skip to the end for a link to whole piece):

This year, Santa’s operation entered the 21st century. Shortly after Thanksgiving, a server room went online at the North Pole to analyze data that used to take an army of elves a year to complete. Sophisticated algorithms crawled the web, taking into account thousands of behavioral factors. Code scoured social media for keywords, while software did the dirty work of sorting naughty from nice. A team of hackers worked to piggyback signals on telecommunications satellites to intercept texts and tweets as they flew around the world. Millions of emails were obtained through a Russian intermediary. Security camera footage was spliced together with GPS locators and all of it was neatly compiled to build a comprehensive file on every last human being on Earth. Finally, the computer assigned a final judgment to each one and spat out a color-coded, three-page report on crisp, white cardstock.

The elves passed the pages around, then checked them twice, and they smiled to each other. A few exchanged high fives. Everything they had been saying for years was confirmed.

I hope you enjoy this tongue-in-cheek look into the inner workings of the North Pole. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas (and I hope you find lots of books under your tree tomorrow)!

Read “The Evidence for Coal” on Creative Colloquy.

While you’re there, check out their other Yuletide tales: “Alpha Wolf” by Joshua Swainston, “Christmas Reflection” by Nick Stokes, and “The Wishing Tree” by Melissa Thayer.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer in the City of Destiny. When he’s not waiting impatiently for those eight tiny reindeer, he can be found on Twitter.

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