I usually stick with classics, like A Christmas Carol and A Little Princess, because I tend to be disappointed by most newer Christmas stories I pick up. A lot of these newer Christmas stories are all about romance or feel too sentimental or formulaic to be enjoyable for me. Or they go in the opposite direction into darkness, and completely miss the point of the season: hope. Because of these moves in the realm of Christmas stories, I’ve stayed away from newer Christmas publications and have just made due with the classics I’ve read half a dozen times, and have done so for years.
However, this year a couple of new Christmas books caught my eye, and I decided to give them a try. The first, Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker, was a severe disappointment. And because of that disappointment, I almost decided not to even attempt the second book I had found. The cover was what had attracted me; a Christmas tree with little robot and rocket ship ornaments was an adorable choice. Thankfully, I decided to go ahead and give Connie Willis’s little book of short stories a try, and it was just as cute as the cover led me to believe.
I had never thought to track down sci-fi Christmas stories. Actually, I didn’t even know those were a thing. Now I know better, and I am so glad I picked this book up! Usually the stories that comprise anthologies are very hit or miss for me, but there was only one story that I didn’t like out of twelve, and it happened to be one of the shortest. The other eleven stories were all wonderful; they were funny or sweet or moving or all of the above, and every single one of them managed to emphasize some important aspect of Christmas.
The stories featured Christmas Spirits who were environmental activists, judgemental aliens, carnivals with spiritual significance, a time traveling Holy Family, and primates with vocal implants. There were mysteries, romances, and odes to Christmas choirs. Every single story except for the one about a carnivorous toy shop was absolutely wonderful, and that one wasn’t terrible. The variety was fantastic. And I loved the fact that a science fiction writer didn’t belittle the spiritual roots of Christmas, but actually embraced them and emphasized Jesus in more than one story. It was such a refreshing collection to find.
Willis also included lists of her favorite Christmas movies and stories and tv series episodes, with a brief explanation of why she loves each. I now have a whole list of things to check out next year, at which point I’ll definitely be rereading this little collection. In the meantime, I plan to track down some of Willis’s more famous books and give them a read, because I really appreciate her style of storytelling. If you’re ever in the mood for some unconventional Christmas tales, don’t hesitate to pick up this collection. It may be a day late, but Merry Christmas, everyone!