The winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, Connie Willis capture the timeless essence of generosity and goodwill in this magical collection if Christmas stories. These eight tales-two of which have never before been published-boldly reimagine the stories of Christmas while celebrating the power of love and compassion. This enchanting treasury includes:
"Miracle," in which a young woman's carefully devised plans to find romance go awry when her guardian angel shows her the true meaning of love
"In Coppelius's Toyshop," where a jaded narcissist finds himself trapped in a crowded toy store at Christmastime
"Epiphany," in which three modern-day wisemen embark on a quest unlike any they've ever experienced
"Inn," where a choir singer gives shelter to a homeless man and his pregnant wife-only to learn later that there's much more to the couple than meets the eye
The witty, literate Willis offers a wonderfully enjoyable ode to Christmas with this collection of eight fantastic seasonal tales. In "Inn," Willis turns what could have been a maudlin church choir story into a poignant tale with a time-travel twist. The title piece, "Miracle," is a screwball office comedy in which It's a Wonderful Life is soundly trounced in favor of Miracle on 34th Street, and the spirit of an ecologically aware surfer appears to give a reluctant heroine her heart's desire. A world-class jerk gets a Twilight Zone-like comeuppance in "In Coppelius's Toy Shop," while in the ominous "The Pony," the characters find exactly what they truly want under the tree. "Adaptation" blends literary and paternal love as two characters from Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" and a modern-day Scrooge become part of a lonely bibliophile's holiday. Throughout the book, Willis's well-crafted stories fuse traditional holiday plots with SF and fantasy elements to good effect. For example, her take on the British country-house Christmas mystery, "Cat's Paw," stars a world-famous sleuth and his slightly foggy assistant Abut it's set in a futuristic steel-and-glass manor and involves a plot that pivots around primate-rights activism. This is a collection that will entertain readers both in and out of season; and as a stocking-stuffer for SF fans, it's a merry delight. (Nov.) FYI: Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog has won the 1999 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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October 30, 2000
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Excerpt from Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis
Introduction I love Christmas. All of it--decorating the tree and singing in the choir and baking cookies and wrapping presents. I even like the parts most people hate--shopping in crowded malls and reading Christmas newsletters and seeing relatives and standing in baggage check-in lines at the airport. Okay, I lied. Nobody likes standing in baggage check-in lines. I love seeing people get off the plane, though, and holly and candles and eggnog and carols. But most of all, I love Christmas stories and movies. Okay, I lied again. I don't love all Christmas stories and movies.It's a Wonderful Life,for instance. And Hans Christian Andersen's "The Fir Tree." But I loveMiracle on 34th Streetand Christopher Morley's "The Christmas Tree That Didn't Get Trimmed" and Christina Rosetti's poem "Midwinter." My family watchesThe Sure ThingandA Christmas Storyeach year, and we read George V. Higgins's "The Snowsuit of Christmas Past" out loud every Christmas Eve, and eagerly look for new classics to add to our traditions. There aren't a lot. This is because Christmas stories are much harder to write than they look, partly because the subject matter is fairly limited, and people have been writing them for nearly two thousand years, so they've just about rung all the changes possible on snowmen, Santas, and shepherds. Stories have been told from the point of view of the fourth wise man (who got waylaid on the way to Bethlehem), the innkeeper, the innkeeper's wife, the donkey, and the star. There've been stories about department-store Santas, phony Santas, burned-out Santas, substitute Santas, reluctant Santas, and dieting Santas, to say nothing of Santa's wife, his elves, his reindeer, and Rudolph. We've had births at Christmas (natch!), deaths, partings, meetings, mayhem, attempted suicides, and sanity hearings. And Christmas in Hawaii, in China, in the past, the future, and outer space. We've heard from the littlest shepherd, the littlest wise man, the littlest angel, and the mouse who wasn't stirring. There's not a lot out there that hasn't already been done. In addition, the Christmas-story writer has to walk a narrow tightrope between sentiment and skepticism, and most writers end up falling off into either cynicism or mawkish sappiness. And, yes, I am talking about Hans Christian Andersen. He invented the whole three-hanky sob story, whose plot Maxim Gorki, in a fit of pique, described as taking a poor girl or boy and letting them "freeze somewhere under a window, behind which there is usually a Christmas tree that throws its radiant splendor upon them." Match girls, steadfast tin soldiers, even snowmen (melted, not frozen) all met with a fate they (and we) didn't deserve, especially at Christmas. Nobody, before Andersen came along, had thought of writing such depressing Christmas stories. Even Dickens, who had killed a fair number of children in his books, didn't kill Tiny Tim. But Andersen, apparently hell-bent on ruining everybody's holidays, froze innocent children, melted loyal toys into lumps of lead, and chopped harmless fir trees who were just standing there in the forest, minding their own business, into kindling. Worse, he inspired dozens of imitators, who killed off saintly children (some of whom, I'll admit, were pretty insufferable and deserved to die) and poor people for the rest of the Victorian era. In the twentieth century, the Andersen-style tearjerker moved into the movies, which starred Margaret O'Brien (who definitely deserved to die) and other child stars, chosen for their pallor and their ability to cough. They had titles likeAll Mine to GiveandThe Christmas Tree,which tricked hapless moviegoers into thinking they were going to see a cheery Christmas movie, when really they were about little boys who succumbed to radiation poisoning on Chris