By this time, I think I might actually count as a Connie Willis fangirl. While I haven’t scoured magazines for ancient stories she’s written under pseudonyms (and don’t even know if such things exist), I am steadily working my way through her novels and stories, and so far, I haven’t read a single thing by her that I haven’t at least liked and often loved.
Impossible Things, a collection of short stories, is no exception. While I had read several of the stories already in the marvelous bumper crop that makes up The Winds of Marble Arch, I hadn’t read them all. This collection makes particularly good use of Willis’s talent for screwball comedy: the impossible relationship, the forced marriage, the witty banter, the Rube Goldberg-device of a plot. “Spice Pogrom,” really more of a novella than a short story, exercises this talent to the maximum. Amazing that screwball comedy still works on other planets. Then there was “Winter’s Tale,” which tells of the greatest Shakespeare conspiracy theory of all, from the point of view of Shakespeare’s wife; the chilling “Schwarzchild Radius,” which takes a scientific concept about black holes and applies it to human psychology; and “Time Out,” in which a busy stay-at-home mom, a man who’s spent the last five years in a lamasery in Tibet, and a scientist studying time travel meet. I cannot even begin to describe the consequences.
Connie Willis does everything well. I can hardly imagine being on the science-fiction and fantasy scene in the early 1980s, when this forty-something woman dropped nearly out of nowhere and started winning every award imaginable for every last book and story she wrote. She’s interested in everything. She says she’s been to some strange worlds, and if you don’t believe her, you should join the church choir and the PTA. I suggest that instead of doing that, you start reading her books. You’ll be a believer, just as I am.