(Photo courtesy of Connie Willis)
By: Andrianna Veatch, Staff Reporter
On Saturday evening, November 11th, 2017, the Tattered Book Cover on Colfax hosted a book talk and signing by Connie Willis. Connie Willis is a Grandmaster of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, eleven-time Hugo award winner, and seven-time Nebula award winner, and authoress of over thirty books. Her newest release, titled A Lot Like Christmas, contains all of the stories from her previous Christmas title, Miracle, and Other Christmas Stories, as well as five previously unpublished works. Full of fun, flights of fancy, and solid science-fiction, the book is a pure delight for the holiday season.
At the beginning of her talk, Willis read a section from her short story “All Seated on the Ground,” a hilarious account of an alien ‘invasion’ occurring at Christmas time, and humanity’s attempts to communicate with the aliens. The piece manages to capture a vast cast of characters and mindsets, from the tired-sounding but funny main character to a bunch of little choir girls who help solve a mystery; all throughout the story is entertaining and layered with irony.
A good story, according to Willis, contains irony, which she described as “…the gap between what you expect and what is.” The Christmas Story—the birth of Christ—is rich in such irony: the Magi expecting to honor a king, and finding only a kid; Herod getting backstabbed by the Magi when he requests their help in locating this king-kid. It is this irony that serves to make the Greatest Story Ever Told so satisfying. This topic of discussion soon led to a writing tip pertained to good endings: a happy ending needs to feel deserved—or else it becomes contrived, shoehorned in for convenience. There must be suffering which leads to rewards; otherwise, readers will become cranky. Willis revealed another important writing tip: Readers care about the most simple details; in one of her earlier works, Willis mentioned in passing a “Molasses Swamp” card for the Candyland game, and soon received an irate letter from someone explaining that there is NO “Molasses Swamp” card for the Candyland game. No matter what the subject, topic, or detail is, somewhere out there, somebody will care genuinely about it, so solid research is an excellent ingredient for successful writing and satisfied readers.
Future projects to look out for from Willis include a novel about a rollicking road-trip to Roswell, New Mexico, and another addition to her Oxford Time Travelers books. And no, she has never been kidnapped by aliens.