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Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

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Overview

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 ...

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Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

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Overview

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
And more

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The witty, literate Willis offers to wonderfully enjoyable ode to Christmas."
--Publishers Weekly

"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."
--Boolist

""Willis is a national treasure."
--San Antonio Express-News

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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 --but 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 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553580488
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 353,265
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 6.94 (h) x 0.81 (d)

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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Read an Excerpt

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 love Miracle on 34th Street and Christopher Morley's "The Christmas Tree That Didn't Get Trimmed" and Christina Rosetti's poem "Midwinter." My family watches The Sure Thing and A Christmas Story each 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 like All Mine to Give and The 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 Christmas Eve.

When television came along, this type of story turned into the "Very Special Christmas Episode" of various TV shows, the worst of which was Little House on the Prairie, which killed off huge numbers of children in blizzards and other pioneer-type disasters every Christmas for years. Hadn't any of these authors ever heard that Christmas stories are supposed to have happy endings?

Well, unfortunately, they had, and it resulted in improbably sentimental and saccharine stories too numerous to mention.

So are there any good Christmas stories out there? You bet, starting with the original. The recounting of the first Christmas (you know, the baby in the manger) has all the elements of great storytelling: drama, danger, special effects, dreams and warnings, betrayals, narrow escapes, and--combined with the Easter story--the happiest ending of all.

And it's got great characters--Joseph, who's in over his head but doing the best he can; the wise men, expecting a palace and getting a stable; slimy Herod, telling them, "When you find this king, tell me where he is so I can come and worship him," and then sending out his thugs to try to murder the baby; the ambivalent innkeeper. And Mary, fourteen years old, pondering all of the above in her heart. It's a great story -no wonder it's lasted two thousand years.

Modern Christmas stories I love (for a more complete list, see the end of this book) include O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," T. S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi," and Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, about a church Nativity pageant overrun by a gang of hooligans called the Herdmans. The Herdmans bully everybody and smoke and cuss and come only because they'd heard there were refreshments afterward. And they transform what was a sedate and boring Christmas pageant into something extraordinary.

Since I'm a science-fiction writer, I'm of course partial to science-fiction Christmas stories. Science fiction has always had the ability to make us look at the world from a different angle, and Christmas is no exception. Science fiction has looked at the first Christmas from a new perspective (Michael Moorcock's classic "Behold the Man") and in a new guise (Joe L. Hensley and Alexei Panshin's "Dark Conception").

It's shown us Christmas in the future (Cynthia Felice's "Track of a Legend") and Christmas in space (Ray Bradbury's wonderful "The Gift"). And it's looked at Christmas itself (Mildred Clingerman's disturbing "The Wild Wood").

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Absolutely a must-read! You will want to share this treasure.

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2000

    Delightful read

    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.

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