Ah, December...the season for sharing, giving and spending time with loved ones. For me, it also usually means time off from work and--as long as no creatures are stirring (including the mice)--more time to read! For others looking to while away the time with some good stories, I offer these Christmas-themed science fiction and fantasy titles. The holidays don't stop when you leave the confines of Earth, as many of these stories show.
Season of Wonder edited by Paula Guran
What do you get when you combine the wonder of short fiction with the most wonderful season of the year? Editor Paula Guran has eighteen answers to that question with this anthology of holiday-themed science fiction and fantasy stories. Contributors include Charles de Lint, Connie Willis, Ellen Kushner, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, James Patrick Kelly, Janet Kagan, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, M. Rickert, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Orson Scott Card, Robert Charles Wilson, Robert Reed and more.
I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas by Adam Roberts
It wouldn't be Christmas without talking about Charles Dickens' perennial classic, A Christmas Carol. By now, you must be ready for a fresh retelling of that story. And when I say fresh, I mean decaying, because that's what you'll get with I Am Scrooge by Adam Roberts, a Christmas/zombie mash-up that plays loose with Dickens' classic. Believe it or not, Ebenezer Scrooge is the good guy in this one; he's in a position--thanks to the Ghost of Christmas Past--to undo the zombie infection that plagues the world.
A Cosmic Christmas edited by Hank Davis
Here's an anthology that shows what happens when you put Christmas in the hands of a dozen vivid imaginations. In here you'll find stories about robots, vampires, artificial intelligences, magic-wielding detectives, high-tech homes and ghosts, to name a few...all this from the pens of Catherine Asaro, Mercedes Lackey, Manly Wade Wellman, Poul Anderson, Sarah H. Hoyt and more.
Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
Could anyone rightfully expect the author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to stay away from a holy holiday? In Unholy Night, we see the untold story behind the Nativity, as seen through the eyes of the three wisemen. Except they're not exactly wisemen but thieves on the run after escaping from prison. Circumstances soon force them into the position of helping Joseph, Mary and their newborn infant son escape Egypt--and that includes defending them from magical creatures.
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis
Holidays are times of traditions. Author and Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Connie Willis has a tradition too: she writes Christmas stories for the holidays. This is a tradition that everyone can enjoy. Her book Miracle and Other Christmas Stories collects a handful of her earlier Christmas stories, each one a treat spiked with the true meaning of the holidays.
Terry Pratchett's Hogfather: The Illustrated Screenplay
Pratchett's humorous Discworld series is a worldwide favorite among readers. It's no wonder that the series has been running as long as it has, or that the stories have been adapted to other media. A few years ago, there was a two-part television adaptation of his Discworld novel, Hogfather, in which the titular character brings children presents and grants their wishes on December 32nd (Hogswatchnight). This book is the illustrated screenplay of that production.
Christmas Stars / Christmas Forever / Christmas Magic / Christmas Ghosts edited by David G. Hartwell
A little harder to find (but worth the search) is this selection of anthologies by one of the field's preeminent and most-respected editors, David G. Hartwell. In these anthologies, your imagination is taken to fantastic places to experience the spirit of the holidays. A very brief author listing: Christmas Stars features stories by Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, William Gibson, and Arthur C. Clarke; Christmas Forever includes stories by Roger Zelazny, Margaret Ball, Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock; Christmas Magic has stories by Kit Reed, Howard Waldrop, M.J. Engh, and David Morrell; Christmas Ghosts (co-edited with Kathryn Cramer) features stories by Charles Dickens, Ramsey Campbell, Elizabeth Walter and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
Yep, this one served as a Halloween read as well, so if you missed it in October, here's another chance to experience the odd imagination of Brom, an author and an artist who asks: what if jolly old Saint Nick's magic was stolen from an evil entity named Krampus? A down-and-out songwriter finds out firsthand and it's up to him to save the holidays.
...And Plenty More
There are lots more science fiction Christmas stories under your reading tree. If you're not sure whether these stories are right for you, or you want a smaller taste, fire up your favorite electronic reading device and check out The Taste of Miracles by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, James Patrick Kelly's Strangeways Number 4, and The Alien That Ate Christmas by Stephen Hunt.
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also likes bagels.