by Connie Willis

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Asimov's, December 1997

collected in —

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories November 2011

All the news that's right and good

This light and clever science-fiction novelet rings some variations on the theme of holiday end-of-year newsletters, wherein families condense their year's memorable highlights: Buster stubbed his toe, Sissy won another Nobel Prize, and so on. Connie Willis clearly has long felt the joys and buffets of such edifying newsletters, both in receiving them and being nagged to be sure to send out one this year! So "Newsletter" is the tale of one season of Christmas and New Year's with the family newsletters preparing to spring through the mails, yet our heroine Nan feels she has nothing particular to say.

The odd thing this year is that little things begin to go right: little things, but too many of them, going way better than normal or habitual: with Nan's relatives, among her co-workers, even afar as described in the Christmas newsletters she begins to receive. At first she is startled and bemused, then speculative, then seriously worrying as the pattern seems much larger than she'd first thought.

The plot is not complicated, but as always, Connie Willis' characters are deftly sketched. with humor and empathy. The story has Willis' easy reality, with Nan's mother's kitchen and her own office and the Christmas shoppers as the natural backdrop to something — different. What's wrong? is the first puzzle. And then: How? And more subtly, why do so many right changes that Nan notices seem to add to a wrongness?

If I say that "Newsletter", doesn't rise to the level of those completely sparkling Christmas packages, "Miracle" and "Inn", it's just that those others are so good. Yet "Newsletter" is a neatly wrapped and tucked story, quite wittily presented, and fun to watch unfold.

You may find yourself giving a little more thoughtful attention to the next round of Christmas newsletters you receive.


© 2011 Robert Wilfred Franson

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