Fantasy Winterfest

When I was at the library the other day, I noticed they had set up a display of

Winter Reading

various books tied to this holiday season.  From what I saw there, if you are a reader of mysteries, you could probably go through the Twelve Days of Christmas and beyond reading a couple of books a day and never duplicate.  However, for the reader of SF/F, the pickings were certainly much thinner.

Terry Pratchett was well-represented with two of his Discworld novels – Hogfather and Wintersmith – on the shelf.  Hogfather could qualify has a Christmas book since, when Pratchett gets beyond the broad humor of a “Hogfather” rather than “Father Christmas” he touches on some of the deeper mythic roots that haunt many extant Christmas traditions. Wintersmith is less closely tied to Christmas as such, but it is definitely not just a book set in winter.

Susan Cooper’s YA novel The Dark is Rising was there.  It’s not precisely a Christmas book, but it is set during the Christmas season and a Christmas ornament plays a very interesting role.  Oh, yes, and the carol “Good King Wenceslas” also has a fine part to play.  I definitely find this one good Christmas reading.

Then there was C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in which Father Christmas has a wonderful cameo.  Lewis’s description of Father Christmas made a big impact on me as a kid.  I’ll quote just a line or two:

“Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly.  But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn’t find it quite like that.  He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still.  They felt very glad, but also solemn.”

Now, maybe other books had been taken out, but those were the only ones my library had on display that could qualify as SF/F that used Christmas or some other aspect of wintertide in a significant fashion.  When I came home, I tried to think of others.  L.M. Boston’s The Children of Green Knowe is set during Christmas and certainly uses aspects of it nicely.

Then it hit me – all of the books I’d come up with to that point were by British authors.  I started questing for specifically American examples.

Right off, I remembered that one of my earlier sales was to an anthology titled Christmas Bestiary.  My story was a relatively short piece called “Christmas Seal.”  I pulled my copy off the shelf and saw a fair number of American contributors.  I believe David Hartwell edited an anthology of Christmas SF/F that same year…  Must have been a trend.

What about novels, though?  Not much to go with there.  Even Clifford Simak, whose works often explore the role of traditional Christianity in the future, didn’t have a Christmas book I could think of.  Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen is splendid, but the setting is another planet and certainly not at all Christmasy.  Marian Zimmer Bradley’s “Darkover” books feature a winter festival, but despite the traces of Christianity that remain in the Darkoveran human culture with the “cristoforos,” the festival certainly isn’t Christmas.

That’s about as far as I could take it…  Anybody have any suggestions as to what  I might add to my wintertide SF/F reading list?

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12 Responses to “Fantasy Winterfest”

  1. Julie Hagan Bloch Says:

    One that comes to mind is Mark Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale”.
    I read it shortly after it made it to mass market paperback, and I do remember that I really liked it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything more than that, other than that a horse figured in it. But I liked it a lot!

  2. heteromeles Says:

    How about L. Frank Baum’s Life and Adventures of Santa Claus? I remember reading that as a child. Or Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas?

    And there is, of course, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

    Personally, my favorite icy story is Heart of the Comet, though technically that’s neither a story about winter nor a story about Christmas.

  3. Thomas Says:

    Probably, the only one that comes to mind right off the top of my head is Gordon R. Dickson’s, The Dragon, The Earl, And The Troll.
    While Christmas in itself may not play a dominant part, in a sense it is an implied sub-theme, with(in my opinion), a bit of Dickens flavor to the seasonal feel of the novel. The main thrust of the Christmas aspect plays off how the protagonist, Jim, interacts with his fellow nobles.

  4. Alan Robson Says:

    Connie Willis is a writer I feel somewhat ambivalent about, but as a person she is very much in love with the Christmas traditions and she has published a collection of short stories called “Miracle and Other Christmas Stories” which explore various aspects of the season. The stories are just delightful. Short stories are her great strength, and the ones in this collection are particularly good.


    -Alan

  5. Julie Hagan Bloch Says:

    Oh, gads, a new book by Connie Willis! Thanks for the heads up! I love her stuff.

    • Alan Robson Says:

      It’s a couple of years old now — I don’t know if it’s still in print or not. But it’s well worth chasing down in the second hand shops if you can’t find it new.


      -Alan

  6. Alan Robson Says:

    I just thought of another one: “The Stupidest Angel” by Chrostopher Moore. It’s subtitled “A Heartwarming Tale Of Christmas Terror” and like all of Chroistopher Moore’s books it is at one and the same time hilarious and offensive. Needless to say, I loved it.


    -Alan

  7. Paul Says:

    There is always the Dickens fantasy, “A Christmas Carol.” Our monthly library book group read that one in December a year ago. I would second Julie Hagan Bloch’s comments on Mark Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale.” I encountered it by accident when it first came out, didn’t think I was going to like it, but its alternate-world New York City in winter seemed almost like a dream sequence all the way through. I still wonder how Helprin accomplished that.

  8. Pati Nagle Says:

    It’s a short story, not a novel, but O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” should be mentioned.

  9. Barbara Joan Says:

    i want to read them all.

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