Every so often, I think of authors who I really enjoy reading, realize I haven't heard about any new releases from said authors, and then go on Wikipedia to see if I've missed anything. On good days, this is the case. Last week when I checked in on Connie Willis, I saw that I had missed a couple of her standalone novellas.
All Seated on the Ground is one of her Christmas science fiction stories, this time about visiting aliens who have spent the last nine months standing and glaring at all their visitors. They don't speak, they don't have any demands, they don't seem to be hostile, they aren't there to take women . . . they're just there, and they do so with great disapproval. Enter our narrator, a humor columnist for a local newspaper, who is part of the team trying to decipher what the aliens want, in the hopes of communicating with them (aside from their hostile stares, which remind our narrator of her Aunt Judith).
The story is set at Christmas-time, so the holiday features in the story. Like most of Willis' Christmas stories, though, it's not just part of the setting; the fact that it's Christmas-time is actually relevant to the plot. I won't tell you why it's relevant, though. Again, like most of Willis' fiction, the joy of the story comes from her telling it, with all of the missed encounters, managed chaos, and budding romance that one comes to expect from one of her stories.
I didn't read this in the stand-alone printing; instead, I checked out The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories from the library and read it from there. I didn't want to re-read all the stories (they're all wonderful, mind you; I just have other things to read right now), but I did flip through the book to read her commentary on each of the stories included here. I'm one of those kinds of people who check the trivia on IMDB for every movie I see, so I like knowing behind-the-scenes stuff. To me, it adds a lot to a story to know what went into telling it, and Willis' anecdotes about her stories are as amusing and entertaining as the stories themselves.
Also included in The Best of Connie Willis are three speeches that she wrote, one for being the Guest of Honor at the 2006 Worldcon, and two for when she received the Grand Master Award at the 2012 Nebula Awards (one of those she actually gave; the other was a backup "just in case"). All are odes to reading, literature, and science fiction, and all I can say about them is that Connie Willis gets it. I'm not surprised (her fiction alone shows that she gets it), but it was nice to read the reminiscings of someone who does.
It's hard for me to be objective about anything Connie Willis writes. She's a treat, and for as long as she keep writing, I'll keep reading.