Miracle and Other Christmas Storiesby Connie Willis
The winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, Connie Willis has thrilled countless readers with her enthralling science fiction novels that entertain as well as enlighten. Now this superb writer captures the timeless essence of generosity and goodwill in a magical collection of Christmas stories that showcase her remarkable talent while taking us on breathless… See more details below
The winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, Connie Willis has thrilled countless readers with her enthralling science fiction novels that entertain as well as enlighten. Now this superb writer captures the timeless essence of generosity and goodwill in a magical collection of Christmas stories that showcase her remarkable talent while taking us on breathless journeys to fascinating realms filled with wonder and joy.
This enchanting group of eight talestwo of which are original to this collectionbegins with the title story, "Miracle," in which an office worker hopes that her handsome colleague will finally notice her at the company Christmas party. But her carefully devised plans go awry when her guardian angel takes it upon himself to show her the true meaning of love. In the cautionary tale "In Coppelius's Toyshop," the motto What Goes Around Comes Around serves as an eerie reminder to a jaded narcissist who finds himself trapped in a crowded toy store at Christmastime.
In the touching "Adaptation," the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come pay a visit to a lonely bookstore clerk, who discovers that the best gift of all is to giveeven when his one wish for the holidays doesn't come true. "Inn" presents the inspiring story of a choir singer who gives shelter on a cold winter night to a homeless man and his pregnant wifeonly to learn later that there's much more to the couple than meets the eye. And "Epiphany" follows three unwitting, modern-day wisemen on a quest unlike any they've ever experienced.
A treasure to cherish anytime of the year, this collection boldly reimagines the stories of Christmas and serves as atestament to Connie Willis's unique genius and skill in bringing the extraordinary to life while conveying the power of human compassion and love.
"When the holidays seem too stressful, pick up Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, slow down, read a few and remember what the holiday is all about."
The Denver Post
"Gives occasion for even hardened Scrooges to rejoice, as usual, in Connie Willis."
""Willis is a national treasure."
San Antonio Express-News
Read an Excerpt
My favorite science-fiction Christmas stories are Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star," which tells the story of the Christmas star that guided the wise men to Bethlehem, and Thomas Disch's hilarious story "The Santa Claus Compromise," in which two intrepid six-year-old investigative reporters expose the shocking scandal behind Santa Claus.
I also love mysteries. You'd think murder and Christmas wouldn't mesh, but the setting and the possibility of mistletoe/plum pudding/Santa Claus-connected murders has inspired any number of mystery writers, starting with Arthur Conan Doyle and his "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," which involves a Christmas goose. Some of my favorite mysteries are Dorothy Sayers's "The Necklace of Pearls," Agatha Christie's Murder for Christmas, and Jane Langton's The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels. My absolute favorite is John Mortimer's comic "Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas," which stars the grumpy old Scrooge of a barrister, Horace Rumpole, and his wonderful wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed.
Comedies are probably my favorite kind of Christmas story.
I love Damon Runyon's "Dancing Dan's Christmas." (Actually, I love everything Damon Runyon ever wrote, and if you've never read him, you need to go get Guys and Dolls immediately. Ditto P. G. Wodehouse, whose "Jeeves and the Christmas Spirit" and "Another Christmas Carol," are vintage Wodehouse, which means they're indescribable. If you've never read Wodehouse either, what a treat you're in for! He wrote over a hundred books. Start anywhere.) Both Runyon and Wodehouse balance sentiment and cynicism, irony, and the Christmas spirit, human nature and happy endings,without a single misstep.
And then there's Christopher Morley's "The Christmas Tree That Didn't Get Trimmed," which was clearly written in reaction to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Fir Tree." Unlike Andersen, however, Morley understands that the purpose of Christmas is to remind us not only of suffering but of salvation. His story makes you ache, and then despair. And then rejoice.
Almost all great stories (Christmas or otherwise) have that one terrible moment when all seems lost,when you're sure things won't work out, the bad guys will win, the cavalry won't arrive in time, and they (and we) won't be saved. John Ford's Christmas Western, The Three Godfathers, has a moment like that. So does The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, and Miracle on 34th Street, which I consider to be The Best Christmas Movie Ever.
I know, I know, It's a Wonderful Life is supposed to be The Best Christmas Movie Ever, with ten million showings and accompanying merchandising. (I saw an It's a Wonderful Life mouse pad this last Christmas.) And I'm not denying that there are some great scenes in it (see my story "Miracle" on this subject), but the movie has real problems. For one thing, the villainous Mr. Potter is still loose and unpunished at the end of the movie, something no good fairy tale ever permits. The dreadful little psychologist in Miracle on 34th Street is summarily, and very appropriately, fired, and the DA, who after all was only doing his job, repents.
But in It's a Wonderful Life, not only is Mr. Potter free, with his villainy undetected, but he has already proved to be a vindictive and malicious villain. Since this didn't work, he'll obviously try something else. And poor George is still faced with embezzlement charges, which the last time I looked don't disappear just because you pay back the money, even if the cop is smiling in the last scene.
But the worst problem seems to me to be that the ending depends on the goodness of the people of Bedford Falls, something that (especially in light of previous events) seems like a dicey proposition.
Miracle on 34th Street, on the other hand, relies on no such thing. The irony of the miracle (and let's face it, maybe what really galls my soul is that It's a Wonderful Life is a work completely without irony) is that the miracle happens not because of people's behavior, but in spite of it.
Christmas is supposed to be based on selflessness and innocence, but until the very end of Miracle on 34th Street, virtually no one except Kris Kringle exhibits these qualities. Quite the opposite. Everyone, even the hero and heroine, acts from a cynical, very modern self-interest. Macy's Santa goes on a binge right before Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Doris hires Kris to get herself out of a jam and save her job, John Payne invites the little girl Susan to watch the parade as a way to meet the mother.
And in spite of Kris Kringle's determined efforts to restore the true spirit of Christmas to the city, it continues. Macy's and then Gimbel's go along with the gag of recommending other stores, not because they believe in it, but because it means more money. The judge in Kris's sanity case makes favorable rulings only because he wants to get re-elected. Even the postal workers who provide the denouement just want to get rid of stuff piling up in the dead-letter office.
But in spite of this (actually, in a delicious irony, because of it) and with only very faint glimmerings of humanity from the principals, and in spite of how hopeless it all seems, the miracle of Christmas occurs, right on schedule. Just as it does every year.
It's this layer of symbolism that makes Miracle on 34th Street such a satisfying movie. Also its script (by George Seaton) and perfect casting (especially Natalie Wood and Thelma Ritter) and any number of delightful moments (Santa's singing a Dutch carol to the little Dutch orphan and the disastrous bubble-gum episode and Natalie Wood's disgusted expression when she's told she has to have faith even when things don't work out). Plus, of course, the fact that Edmund Gwenn could make anyone believe in Santa Claus. All combine to make it The Best Christmas Movie Ever Made.
Not, however, the best story. That honor belongs to Dickens and his deathless "A Christmas Carol." The rumor that Dickens invented Christmas is not true, and neither, probably, is the story that when he died, a poor costermonger's little girl sobbed, "Dickens dead? Why, then, is Christmas dead, too?" But they should be.
Because Dickens did the impossible--not only did he write a masterpiece that captures the essence of Christmas, but one that was good enough to survive its own fame. There have been a million, mostly awful, TV, movie, and musical versions and variations, with Scrooge played by everybody from Basil Rathbone to the Fonz, but even the worst of them haven't managed to damage the wonderful story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim.
One reason it's such a great story is that Dickens loved Christmas. (And no wonder. His childhood was Oliver Twist's and Little Dorrit's combined, and no kindly grandfather or Arthur Clennam in sight. His whole adult life must have seemed like Christmas.) I think you have to love Christmas to write about it.
For another, he knew a lot about human nature. Remembering the past, truly seeing the present, imagining the consequences of our actions are the ways we actually grow and change. Dickens knew this years before Freud.
He also knew a lot about writing. The plot's terrific, the dialogue's great, and the opening line--"Marley was dead: to begin with"--is second only to "Call me Ishmael" as one of the great opening lines of literature. He knew how to end stories, too, and that Christmas stories were supposed to have happy endings.
Finally, the story touches us because we want to believe people can change. They don't. We've all learned from bitter experience (though probably not as bitter as Dickens's) that the world is full of money-grubbers and curtain-ring stealers, that Scrooge stays Scrooge to the bitter end, and nobody will lift a finger to help Tiny Tim.
But Christmas is about someone who believed, in spite of overwhelming evidence, that humanity is capable of change and worth redeeming. And Dickens's Christmas story is in fact The Christmas Story. And the hardened heart that cracks open at the end of it is our own.
If I sound passionate (and sometimes curmudgeonly) about Christmas stories, I am. I love Christmas, in all its complexity and irony, and I love Christmas stories.
So much so that I've been writing them for years. Here they are - an assortment of stories about church choirs and Christmas presents and pod people from outer space, about wishes that come true in ways you don't expect and wishes that don't come true and wishes you didn't know you had, about stars and shepherds, wise men and Santa Claus, mistletoe and It's a Wonderful Life and Christmas cards on recycled paper. There's even a murder. And a story about Christmas Yet to Come.
I hope you like them. And I hope you have a very merry Christmas!
Meet the Author
Connie Willis has won six Nebula Awards (more than any other science fiction writer), six Hugo Awards, and for her first novel, Lincoln's Dreams, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her novel Doomsday Book won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, and her first short-story collection, Fire Watch, was a New York Times Notable Book. Her other works include To Say Nothing of the Dog, Bellwether, Impossible Things, Remake, and Uncharted Territory. Ms. Willis lives in Greeley, Colorado, with her family and is hard at work on her next novel, Working Cape Race.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Connie Willis's collection of short stories will enchant and amuse you, bring you a chuckle and a tear to your eye, and absolutely remind you of the Magic that is Christmas. Do yourself a favor and read it.
This is an amazing collection of short stories by an author who understands and respects the wonder, joy, and frustration of both Christmas and the Holiday season. Everybody will see bits and pieces of their own lives in each story. Willis talant lies in taking those ordinary pieces and making them extraordinary. None of the stories ever end where you expect them too. This is an excellent collection that deserves more attention and praise than it will probably recieve.