Book Review: All about Emily, by Connie Willis

51ZSKYABRCLAll About Emily is a delightful holiday confection by Connie Willis.  You can read it on your phone while you wait in line at the mall.  You can read it during a quick break between wrapping presents, or in the airport, or while hiding in the back room during a family get together NOT THAT I’VE EVER DONE THAT.  It’s a quick, light read that has unexpected twists and is moving without being saccharine.

In All About Emily, an actress, Claire, who is rapidly reaching “a certain age” is asked to meet with a young woman (the niece of a famous scientist) for a publicity shoot.  This woman, Eve, is a huge fan of Claire’s.  But Eve has a secret – and it’s not that she wants to take over Claire’s career.  I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll keep this vague, but it involves dreams and humanity and what we will do to attain them and to help others attain them.

I love this novella because it doesn’t feel cut off, like many novellas do.  It tells a whole story.  And I relax reading it, because it’s short.  December is not a month in which I want to tackle, say, all the books in the Game of Thrones series.  I’m busy.   But I still need to read every spare second, because, well, reading is what I do.  So this story keeps me happy and entertained and refreshed without feeling like a burden.  Like Connie Willis’s other comedic stories, this one is fun, as trope-savvy Claire tries to figure out which story she might be in (she thinks at first that it’s All About Eve, but our Eve has no desire to be an actress).  There’s a rich feeling of the theatrical world, and fun allusions to it being slightly futuristic.

Above all, the story is deeply optimistic.  It’s a story about people at their best.  It would have been so easy to make this story tragic or cynical, and at points it looks like that’s where we’re headed.  But ultimately people come together in a not too sappy, but very touching, Christmas miracle.  It’s not a super miracle.  It doesn’t fix everything.  But it gives hope that people can be decent and that we all have dreams and hopes and will help each other achieve them.

Things I Heard at the Nebula Awards Weekend

Nebula Award LogoThe Nebulas were an amazing event.  I was surrounded by brilliant people who were also warm and welcoming to me, the rookie.  People put me in contact with folks to interview, helped me with recording, gave me books (So!  Many!  Books!).  And yes, people did very kindly admire photos of my nine year old daughter, and, in one case, also photos of my dog.  Suave and professional, that’s me.  One of the highlights of the event was showing new steampunk author Michael J. Martinez a photo of my daughter holding her Yoda doll and watching Star Wars:  A New Hope and seeing a photo of his daughter using the force grip on him.  Us geek parents are a strange lot – and Michael’s book, The Daedalus Incident, is available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, should you wish to check it out.

I’m sure I’ll be blogging about this event for months, but here’s just a few of the odd, profound, funny, and marvelous things I heard, or overheard, at the Nebulas:

Alethea Kontis:  I wear tiaras because they are awesome and so am I!

E.C. Myers (who happens to be male):  I used to read all the books my sister brought home from school, and I loved the Sweet Valley High books, especially the one where Elizabeth gets in a motorcycle accident and wakes up with her twin, Jessica’s, personality.  I also loved The Babysitter’s Club, because Claudia was the only Asian character I could find.

Mary Robinette Kowal (whose character, Vincent, is loosely based on her husband):  You can tell what a crush I have on my husband by how many times Vincent takes off his shirt.

Connie Willis:  In good romantic comedy, love is a positve force when it is selfless.  Love, communication, compassion, can fix everything.  Sometimes love conquers – especially when people are willing to give each other up.

Sarah Beth Durst:  Fantasy is the literature of hope.

Nick Sagan (quoting his father, Carl Sagan):  We make our world significant by the courage of our questions.

Steven Gould (introducing the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Nominees):  A reading from the sacred texts of my people:  “The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-wracked Northeast sea, is a land famous for wizards”.

Gene Wolfe (accepting the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award):  You are all strange and wonderful people.

Anonymous:  Oh, you have to go upstairs and see the bartending robot!

Your order?

Your order?