cover image Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

Connie Willis. Spectra Books, $19.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-553-11111-8

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.