In the future that Connie Willis paints for us in Remake, Hollywood has stopped making live-action films. Instead, their CGI technology is so good that all they’ve had to do is patent the old film stars — Jimmy Cagney, Marilyn Monroe, River Phoenix, James Dean — and put them into endless sequels and remakes. Terminator 9. Gone With the Wind, this time with a happy ending (“I love you, Rhett.” “Frankly, my dear — frankly, I love you, too!”) Casablanca, starring Julia Roberts. The studio executives are out for blood, and the parties are a blur of sex and drugs.
The narrator, Tom, is an infinitely jaded film student, who loves movies but ruins them for a living. His current project is to remove the AS’s (addictive substances — drugs, cigarettes, alcohol) from all his studio’s old films. Imagine removing the alcohol from a film like Harvey or Philadephia Story, and you’ll see the difficulty. And then Alis walks into the party he’s cruising. Alis, against all logic, against all possibility, wants to dance in the movies — despite the fact that no one is making live action films, or the fact that musicals were dead in the 1960s. Like Fred Astaire, like Ginger Rogers, like Eleanor Powell and Gene Kelly, she wants to dance. And the rest of this short book — more of a novella, really — is twined around the mirror images of wanting what you can never have, and believing that anything is possible.
Connie Willis is a genius storyteller. She writes biting satire, screwball comedy, farce, science fiction, and poignant drama on the same page, where so many writers would find themselves incapable of pulling off even one of those. I’ve never been disappointed (and you can see my reviews of Bellwether, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, Inside Job, and The Winds of Marble Arch to prove it, though my favorite of hers is probably Passage or To Say Nothing of the Dog.) Grab anything of hers, and get ready to enjoy.