10 Holiday-Themed Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

What better time for speculative fiction than the season of wonder? Many fans of the genre I know make a tradition of re-reading Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or another beloved classic around the holidays. But you don’t have to turn to the old staples to celebrate with your favorite genre: science fiction and fantasy authors have provided more on-topic holiday reads as well, ranging from the joyous, to the quirky, to the downright grim.

A Lot Like Christmas: Stories, by Connie Willis
This prolific (and prolifically awarded) science fiction author has delivered her share of holiday-themed stories and novellas over the course of her 30-year career. This collection brings together many that her fans are sure to love. Drawing from motifs ranging from holiday pageants, to Christmas dinner, to Secret Santas, and many more of our favorite (or perhaps least favorite) holiday events, this collection taps into a breadth of emotion that makes the futuristic deeply human. In most of these tales, the author’s penchant for gentle satire and characters who are truly characters is on full display, so considering this if your Christmas spirit needs lifting.

The Lost Child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell
The second novella in Doctor Who scribe Paul Cornell’s series following a small coven of witches in a small English village delivers a satisfying, Christmas-themed mystery. Reluctant witch turned vicar Lizzie is attempting to oversee her first Christmas Eve service as reverend of St. Martin’s Church, a process made much more difficult by meddlesome faeries and ongoing attempts by dark forces breach the walls between worlds—as well as the sudden appearance of a ghostly little boy in the church. It’s a supernatural tale and a downright cozy depiction of both the comfortable and the stifling aspects of small-town life.

Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcrackerby Gregory Maguire
The bestselling novelist known for turning and Grimm’s Fairy Tales on their head does it again—this time with the beloved holiday fable The Nutcracker. True to form, this retelling goes far deeper (and weirder) than the original, winding the narrative through one of those classic dark forests so often found in fairy tales. and only getting (much) stranger from there. Because the holidays shouldn’t be all about grimness and peril (at least after Black Friday), it thankfully ends on a on a note of hope.

Hogfatherby Terry Pratchett
Of course Terry Pratchett has a quasi-Christmas novel in his extensive Discworld series. Even in corrupt Discworld, who could want the jolly, red-suited gift-giver of Hogswatchnight dead? Whoever put the tusked olf elf-ish creature on ice, Death (of the cloak and scythe variety) is about to take up the Hogfather’s mantle—unless his granddaughter Susan can find a way to set things right in time. Delivering Pratchett’s trademark humor and quirk, this is a truly lighthearted read deserves to be an annual tradition.

Krampus: The Yule Lordby Brom
If you like your Christmas spirit more than a little twisted, this is the book for you. Krampus harkens to the darkest of Christmas lore with a story of a West Virginia songwriter ensnared by Krampus, the ancient trickster demon known for his cruel punishments of naughty children. This is a book you can judge by its horrifying cover: writer/artist Brom’s prose is every bit as creepy as his illustrations.

NOS4A2by Joe Hill
If you’ve read Horns, it is chilling to think of Hill taking on the holidays, but here we are all the same. Convicted child-napper Charles Manx was notorious for the presumed murders of countless children, but he wasn’t exactly killing them: instead, he took them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce, and into an alternate reality with a sinister amusement park he calls Christmasland, to await a fate more terrible than death. When Manx escapes and starts killing again, one of his near-victims, now an emotionally scarred adult, must track him down and rescue his latest quarry. Easter Eggs for fans of Hill’s father (that would be Stephen King) abound, pulling in some seasonally appropriate nostalgia even beyond the climax that hinges upon a giant tree and cursed ornaments, and at 700-plus pages, this is an epic quest to sustain you through those long winter nights.

A Scandal in Batterseaby Mercedes Lackey
A psychic, a medium, and their ward celebrate Christmas, along with their friends Dr. Watson and his wife Mary. But even as the friends gather, the dark forces of Christmas Eve collect across London, and soon, women are mysteriously disappearing across the city. Part of Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, the story harkens back to Sherlock Holmes’ 20th-century London—but one in which magic is real. And, it offers a few exciting twists along the way.

A Christmas Carol II: The Rise of the Juggernautsby Nicholas Kaminsky
This story opens with the understanding that any man who transforms overnight and runs around town muttering of ghosts has gone insane. Except, there are whispers that Scrooge was right, and that a certain Relic holds the key to commanding the spirits. Meanwhile, Tiny Tim has compensated for his childhood disability by becoming a ninja. Now, he returns home to destroy a secret Juggernaut army. In an enjoyably silly tale, this original take on well-known characters encapsulates both a wild adventure and the same Christmas spirit as the original.

The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen
If you can’t help but enjoy the Hallmark movies this time of year, this sweet urban fantasy is for you. There’s more than a spark of holiday magic to the story of Josey, who discovers her town nemesis, waitress Della Lee, is also a fairy godmother. The town is soon blossoming with magic, turning it into a place where a certain color (red, of course) contains powers and heated moments can turn literal. A gentle romantic subplot will warm hearts, no matter the weather outside.

Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Jack Dann
The season of Hanukkah is a perfect time to celebrate the great Jewish voices of science fiction and fantasy. This collection brings together some of the genre’s greatest masters (including Isaac Asimov), with stories underlying themes of what it means to be Jewish. This collection blends humor and sadness, cynicism and faith—from the perspective of the speculative, futuristic, and strange.

What sci-fi & fantasy books put you in a holiday mood?

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