I was thinking about the next post I’m doing, discussing my favorite holiday movie (along with a movie that is not holiday-like but is coming out on Christmas Day), and it got me thinking about holiday sci-fi books. I could only think of two sci fi books that deal with Christmas, although Google revealed this list of holiday-themed sci fi books (which fails to mention my favorite).
The first story I thought of is an Arthur C. Clarke one I read in high school – The Star. The ending is cool but otherwise I wasn’t crazy about it. My second Christmas sci fi book, however, is one of my favorite books, written by Terry Prachett. Pratchett is my favorite living science fiction author (an easy decision for me to make because Asimov, Heinlein, and Herbert are all dead) and I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about him.
I first fell in love with Pratchett when I read his short story, “Hollywood Chickens.” It’s funny overall but I knew I found a keeper when a reference was made to a Star Trek episode that was found on the side of an LA freeway. The next line described the episode as “the one where Captain Kirk falls in love with the girl.” Maybe I’m a huge dork, but I thought that line was hysterical (and if you don’t get it, I’m not going to explain it to you).
Anyway, Pratchett’s Christmas-themed book is Hogfather. Hogfather is the twentieth of Pratchett’s books to be set on Discworld, a flat world balanced on the back of four elephants who ride on the back of a giant turtle. Discworld is similar to our world, although there St. Nick is replaced by Hogfather, who delivers presents on December 32.
The brilliance of Hogfather the book is that the man himself has been “killed,” so Death has to take over delivering presents. Meanwhile, Death’s granddaughter, Susan, has to track down and rescue Hogfather. While there are many movies (and possibly other books) that base a plot on someone stepping in for Santa Claus, no other character is as funny a replacement as Death. And Death, who appears in several of the Discworld books, is always likable and relatable (a testament to Pratchett’s brilliance).
Pratchett’s skill lies both in taking humorous jabs at our world and in creating lovable, unforgettable characters. In addition to Death, Rincewind the incompetent wizard is a funny, fantastic character who shows up in many of the Discworld books. The leading law firm in Discworld, while not central to any of the stories, is still worth a mention because the three founders are a zombie and two vampires (how many law firms would secretly love such monsters as their lawyers?). Moist von Lipwig is a con-man and the Postmaster General who takes Ankh-Morpork off the gold standard in Making Money (a storyline my brother, the law and economics guru, would appreciate). Granny Weatherwax is also great, as are the Wee Free Men.
I could go on all day about the greatness that is Discworld and the characters Pratchett has created, but for now, let me just say…If you’re looking for a good holiday read, read Hogfather. It’s holiday magic!