I always think of Connie Willis at Christmas time. One of my favourite of her books is a collection of short fiction, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, many of which were written for Asimov’s December issues over a decade or so. The title story feels like quintessential Willis short stories, because it is a romantic comedy with speculative elements, and includes references classic pop culture of some kind. In this case, it is a debate between which Christmas film is superior, Miracle on 42nd Street (the original) or It’s a Wonderful Life. At the time I first read this story, I hadn’t seen either film. They occasionally screen in Australia, more often now than when I was growing up, but they’re not as pervasive as they apparently are in the US at this time of year!
I went out and watched both movies, as I usually do when Connie Willis structures a story around a piece of Classic Hollywood. They’re both very good movies. But neither of them, for me, has a patch on the personal resonance of, say, Bernard and the Genie, which I adore beyond all reason, or even the resonance of “Miracle” itself.
It’s all personal, though. Christmas cultural texts come from our childhood, from happy moments in our lives, or they just happen like lightning – like anything else that becomes a new, instant favourite. But really, I didn’t start thinking about Christmas texts until I read “Miracle.” So it’s rather meta that, at Christmas time, I start getting the urge to re-read that story.