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Jacqueline Woodson blurb for ART OF STARVING!!

My debut novel THE ART OF STARVING got its first blurb, and it’s a mind-blowing one. The incredible Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the National Book Award & the Coretta Scott King Award & the Newbery Honor Medal AND A BILLION OTHER AWARDS said:

“Beautifully rendered.  This novel will break your heart and heal it again. I found myself leaning forward as I read it, barely aware of myself turning pages.  So excited for Sam’s voice in the world.”

I’m a huge admirer of Jackie’s work [for real, go read Another Brooklyn, which was robbed for the National Book Award this year – Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad was wonderful, but Another Brooklyn is on some next level special], and so honored that she liked my book.

Check out THE ART OF STARVING on Goodreads. ALSO, it’s available for pre-order on Amazon!

I am Eating the Fantastic.

Me, lounging in the hospitality suite at the Baltimore Book Festival

On Scott Edelman’s fab podcast “Eating the Fantastic,” he interviews science fiction & fantasy & horror writers over an awesome meal… and I’m the guest on the latest issue, out now!! It was the first vegetarian episode, recorded at Baltimore’s One World Cafe during the Baltimore Book Festival.

Here’s what Scott has to say about the episode:

My guest who stole away from the Inner Harbor to join me this episode is Sam J. Miller, a writer who’s been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, and who won the Shirley Jackson Award for his short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.” And who last shared a meal with me during the 2015 Nebula Awards weekend at Alinea, considered to be one of the Top 10 restaurants in the world. His debut novel, The Art of Starving, will appear from HarperCollins in 2017.

We discussed the value of community within the science fiction field, the transformative piece of advice he received from Ted Chiang while attending the Clarion Writers Workshop, how one deals with reviews that are more politically than artistically motivated, the way 9/11 changed horror movies, the importance of the life and works of the great Thomas M. Disch, and more.

You can:

And Subscribe to Eating the Fantastic now so you never miss an episode!

 

Life in Fiction 2016: Highlights as a Reader & a Writer

wp-1480451168053.jpg2016 was a rough year personally, and, uh, also, existentially. Prince died! And David Bowie! and… racist misogynist fascists took over the US government.

So I read a lot of fiction, this year. And it helped me a lot. And I believe that in the coming years, we’ll need fiction more and more.

If you’re in an award-nominating kind of mood, or are desperate to escape this disappointing reality, or are just looking for something awesome to read, here’s my round-up of the best stories written by other people that I read in 2016. I’ve also included the two pieces I’m proudest of, from 2016 – conveniently located in two separate award categories:

Short Story: Clarkesworld, Issue 117, June 2016

“Things With Beards”

Semi-sequel to The Thingusing John Carpenter’s gnarly monster to tell a story of AIDS, gay liberation, police brutality, & passing.  Locus said “The story is a tangle of metaphors that knot perfectly together. …joins others of Miller’s, such as last year’s ‘‘The Heat of Us’’, as a startling and intelligent engagement with queer history through a science fictional lens.” And Peter Watts, author of “The Things,” said “It’s fucking amazing… TWB can’t seem to go for a single paragraph without making some new, visceral, political observation/metaphor.” 

Novelette: Nightmare Magazine, Issue 40, January 2016

Angel, Monster, Man

sketch5220376-1.jpgIt’s the height of the AIDS crisis. Three friends, gay men overwhelmed with rage and sadness, who’ve inherited suitcases and boxes and garbage bags full of unpublished work from fellow writers killed by the virus, invent Tom Minniq: a collective pseudonym under which to publish all that orphaned work. Tom becomes a literary superstar, but he doesn’t stay on the page. And he starts acting out their anger in ways that they couldn’t anticipate, and can’t control.

And here are my favorite stories from the past year [list in formation]:

Guest Editorial in Analog: “Someone Else’s Apocalypse”

wp-1480086295307.jpgI’m proud to have a guest editorial in the current issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact!

“Someone Else’s Apocalypse” is about what twelve years as a community organizer working with homeless folks has taught me about how we’ll all deal with the coming collapse of civilization. I wrote it back in May, when I was imagining that rising seas and global conflict over water would render us post-apocalyptic in a couple decades… and now, for some strange reason possibly having to do with the US presidential election, I am feeling like the apocalypse is significantly more imminent now…

Huge thank-you to Analog editor Trevor Quachri for soliciting this piece!

Here’s a taste. For the full thing, pick up the December 2016 issue of Analog!

William Gibson famously remarked that “the future is here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” This is commonly understood to describe the juxtaposition between one part of the earth’s population existing in a “future” where technological and social advances have made many of science fiction’s most beloved dreams come true, and another part of the earth’s population existing in a “past” to which technological and medical advances have not yet trickled down, subject to hardships and sicknesses and that the developed world left behind long ago. Cell phone assemblers in China, for example, endure sweatshop conditions as bad as anything during the Industrial Revolution, in workshops so bad that some workers are driven to suicide, while the Silicon Valley executives whose products they put together work from lavish, high-tech fortress homes.

I suspect, however, that the William Gibson comment contains a certain degree of ominous prophecy. The “future“ that has already arrived, that snuck in without anyone noticing it, is not the tech-enabled utopia we spent the latter half of the twentieth century waiting for, the one we mostly see outside our windows, lacking only jetpacks and hoverboards and interstellar travel. The future is not the tech utopia where we carry computers in our pockets capable of accessing the sum total of human knowledge at any moment.

That world, alas, is the past. The future that’s here, unevenly distributed, is the post-apocalyptic wasteland. The future is dystopia, and its population is growing.

Turn on the nightly news and you’re likely to see refugees. Displaced masses from Syria and Yemen and Afghanistan and more. People who’ve survived dangerous passages, and lost loved ones in that same process. Hungry, frightened, traumatized. Standing outside the gates of safe places they’re barred form entering.

But refugees from foreign countries aren’t the only ones living in their own personal post-apocalypse….

“Things With Beards” in YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, 2017 Ed

yearsbest2017The complete table of contents for Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2017 Edition has been released – and it includes my short story “Things With Beards,” originally published in Clarkesworld.

Here’s the full list of incredible stories contained in this year’s edition. I’m so honored to see my story alongside so many other fab folks.

On a very narcissistic side-note, this is the first time that my name has appeared on the cover! Usually I’m just subsumed into the AND MORE down at the bottom….

  • “Seven Ways of Looking at the Sun-Worshippers of Yul-Katan” by Maggie
    Clark, Analog
  • “All that Robot Shit” by Rich Larson, Asimov’s
  • “Project Empathy” by Dominica Phetteplace, Asimov’s
  • “Lazy Dog Out” by Suzanne Palmer, Asimov’s
  • “The Visitor from Taured” by Ian R. MacLeod, Asimov’s
  • “Openness” by Alexander Weinstein, Beloit Fiction Journal
  • “In Skander, for a Boy” by Chaz Brenchley, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • “Laws of Night and Silk” by Seth Dickinson, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” by Jason Sanford, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • “Rager in Space” by Charlie Jane Anders, Bridging Infinity
  • “Ozymandias” by Karin Lowachee, Bridging Infinity
  • “The Bridge of Dreams” by Gregory Feeley, Clarkesworld
  • “Everybody from Themis Sends Letters Home” by Genevieve Valentine, Clarkesworld
  • “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller, Clarkesworld
  • “Innumerable Glimmering Lights” by Rich Larson, Clockwork Phoenix 5
  • “Between Nine and Eleven” by Adam Roberts, Crises and Conflicts
  • “Red of Tooth and Cog” by Cat Rambo, F&SF
  • “The Vanishing Kind” by Lavie Tidhar, F&SF
  • “A Fine Balance” by Charlotte Ashley, F&SF
  • “Empty Planets” by Rahul Kanakia, Interzone
  • “Fifty Shades of Grays” by Steven Barnes, Lightspeed
  • “I’ve Come to Marry the Princess” by Helena Bell, Lightspeed
  • “RedKing” by Craig deLancey, Lightspeed
  • “A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters” by A.T. Greenblatt, Mothershipship Zeta
  • “Dress Rehearsal” by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Now We Are Ten
  • “The Plague Givers” by Kameron Hurley, Patreon
  • “Gorse Daughter, Sparrow Son” by Alena Indigo Anne Sullivan, Strange Horizons
  • “The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory” by Carlos Hernandez, The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria
  • “Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was” by Paul McAuley, Tor.com
  • “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com

The Future of Science Fiction in Trump’s America

Over at Inverse, Ryan Britt asks the question: what is the future of science fiction in Trump’s America? And he was good enough to ask my opinion, and to give me the last word in his article!

Go read it! “President Trump Will Lead to Darker, Defiant Science Fiction

The short version: the future looks terrifying, for so many of the communities who Trump and his allies have targeted, and we’re going to need outlandish stories even more in the outlandish times ahead.

I gave Ryan more to work with than he was able to include in the finished article, but here’s the full quote:

“Trump’s election hasn’t told us anything we didn’t already know. For many of the most important and powerful voices in the genre, now as in the past, profound racism and misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia are far too real already. Think of The Handmaid’s Tale, about a far-right anti-woman Christian fundamentalist takeover of the US government, or Octavia Butler’s Parable books – a trilogy that she couldn’t complete because it was too traumatic to dig any deeper into a dystopia that Reagan’s America had come to resemble far too closely. Today, writers like Alyssa Wong and N.K. Jemisin and Usman Tanveer Malik and many others are singing terrifying brilliant songs of our not-so-brave not-so-new world of drone bombings, hate crimes, and genocide.

“What will change, I think, is how people respond to science fiction. The future of science fiction in Trump’s America is that people will need it more.  As the world grows darker and stranger, we will need dark and strange stories. That has always been a function of the genre. To help us hope and imagine better worlds and wondrous technologies, yes, but also to help us grieve, and understand, and grow stronger, and fight back.”

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New Novel Sale: BLACKFISH CITY, coming from Ecco Press in 2018

Incredible news: my novel BLACKFISH CITY has sold to Ecco Press, for release in April 2018!

Unlike my debut THE ART OF STARVING, forthcoming in 2017, this one isn’t young adult. A mysterious woman arrives in the floating Arctic city of Qaanaaq, in a future where rising seas have caused dramatic geopolitical changes. She’s accompanied by an orca and a polar bear, on a mission that might be bloody and might be beautiful and might be both. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about it [under its working title THE BREAKS]:

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They incorrectly identify me as a Hugo nominee (I was long-listed last year, but not a finalist!) but otherwise IT IS ALL TRUE. I adore Ecco Press and am so excited to be part of their family, and I love Zack’s work as an editor. Big love and gratitude, as always, to my magnificent agent Seth Fishman.

PS here’s a bad sketch I did, of the main character:

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Interfictions Fall 2016 – Guest Edited by Carmen Maria Machado and I!

The latest issue of Interfictions is out now, the second and final one for which Carmen Maria Machado and I served as guest fiction editors. We had space for two stories, and we chose a pair of magnificent ones.

“She Hides Sometimes” by Nino Cipri

The linen closet disappeared first. Or maybe it was just the first thing that Anjana noticed, the morning her parents moved into the nursing home.

Mana Langkah Pelangi Terakhir? (Where is the Rainbow’s Last Step?) by Jaymee Goh

I was sitting on the edge of the drain outside the school fence, doobying on my Samsung, trying to make it show me the time even when it went idle, when I got the text message from an ex-colleague telling me Pelangi Hussein had passed away.

Go. Read them now. Don’t wait for awards season when everyone else is talking about them and you feel like a bandwagon late-comer.

wp-1478143567850.jpgAnd then read the rest of the issue. Because, as always with Interfictions, there is so much to startle and delight and confuse you, in the best possible ways. I’m so proud to have been a part of it, even if only as a guest.

HUGE THANKS, once again, to Carmen, for asking me to serve as her co-editor. And a second shout-out to the real heroes of both our issues, the fearless insightful wise and tolerant slush readers! Christian Coleman, Eugene Fischer, Val Howlett, Susana Marcelo, Patrick Ropp, Gabriela Santiago, and Isabel Yap read the 500+ stories that arrived during our two-week submissions window last time around, and identified enough solid stories that we had some overflow into this issue.

 

“Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016” is out now

wp-1475614535356.jpgThe second edition of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s fantastic “Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy” has been released, and for the second year in a row I am in it!

My story “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History,” originally published in Uncanny Magazine and subsequently nominated for a World Fantasy Award, is in there alongside magnificent work by Rachel Swirsky, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kelly Link, Ted Chiang, Sofia Samatar, Kij Johnson, Charlie Jane Anders, Seth Dickinson, and so many more. And while the series as a whole is edited by the unfailingly brilliant John Joseph Adams, the final choice on stories in this particular edition was made by my hero Karen Joy Fowler.

tl;dr BUY IT NOW 

 

Here is the “story note” about the origins of my contribution:

The seed of “The Heat of Us” was planted on the night Donna Summer died. I was walking home from work, feeling pretty blue – I think “Bad Girls” is probably the second-best album of all time – looking across at the sad lonely lights of the city coming on, all those people by themselves, all the separate sadness that a certain group of people would be feeling. And I remembered that the Stonewall Uprising happened on the night that Judy Garland died. And I thought “revolutions are born on nights like this.” But that seed didn’t break into blossom until I attended the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop and I saw how exponentially my writing improved through being part of a community of writers and readers, how I could share their strengths and (hopefully) lend them mine. So this is a story about community – about how people are stronger together than separate, and how when we work together we can achieve things so incredible they’re indistinguishable from magic. 

In the Locus Spotlight

An awesome thing: Locus Magazine interviewed me for their rad “Spotlight On” series! It’s a real honor, and I’m very happy with the result.  Here’s a taste:

More and more, I think it’s the storyteller’s job to insert the idea of ‘‘justice’’ into a world where it is so profoundly lacking, to show people that what we yearn for, what we fight for, can come to pass. Empires will fall; our oppressors will be punished; our suffering will be redeemed. The world we actually live in is profoundly unfair and unjust and cruel, but stories can help us escape – and imagine better ones. Our privilege and our oppression will be inverted. Our good acts and our wicked ones will be returned upon us. The ending might not be happy, but it will be just.

You can read the whole interview here. 

Big love & gratitude to Tim Pratt, Arley Sorg, Liza Groen Trombi, and the whole Locus Team!!

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“The Heat Of Us” is a World Fantasy Award nominee!

This week the ballot for the 2016 World Fantasy Award was released, and I was totally magnificently flabbergasted to see that my story “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” is a finalist!

The seed of “The Heat of Us” was planted on the night Donna Summer died. I was walking home from work, feeling pretty blue – I think “Bad Girls” is probably the second-best album of all time – looking across at the sad lonely lights of the city coming on, all those people by themselves, all the separate sadness that a certain group of people would be feeling. And I remembered that the Stonewall Uprising happened on the night that Judy Garland died. And I thought “revolutions are born on nights like this.” But that seed didn’t break into blossom until I attended the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop and I saw how exponentially my writing improved through being part of a community of writers and readers, how I could share their strengths and (hopefully) lend them mine. So this is a story about community – about how people are stronger together than separate, and how when we work together we can achieve things so incredible they’re indistinguishable from magic.

wp-1468421725380.jpgAnd lest we think of Stonewall as ancient history, the Bad Old Days when Homophobia Ruled the Earth, the recent massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando only serves to underscore the extent to which hatred and patriarchy still rule our world. The day after the mass murder, some people posted and tweeted that my story was helping them process the horror, which is probably the highest compliment I’ve received as an author. I can think of no more important role for an artist than to help people imagine a world where the tables get turned on the monsters who would roll up with guns on a crowd of people just trying to have fun.

Just as exciting as the nomination itself is the fact that I’m up against two of my favorite writers and people, Alyssa Wong and Amal El-Mohtar, both of whom I was up against for the Nebula this year as well, and against whom I FOUGHT AN EPIC SERIES OF MESSY, BLOODY, FIERY MAGICAL BATTLES, captured here for posterity.

wp-1468421875908.jpgHuge love to: Uncanny Magazine for publishing it, and for publishing so many other amazing stories – Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas & Michi Trota are truly doing magnificent work; C.S.E. Cooney for doing such a phenomenal job reading my story for the Uncanny Podcast; Holly Black & Cassandra Clare for critiquing the shit out of this in workshop at Clarion; my fellow Clarion 2012 Awkward Robots, who this story is ACTUALLY ABOUT;  all the people who read and reviewed and blogged and tweeted and talked about it, including, but not limited to, A.C. Wise, John Joseph Adams, Sarah Pinsker, Amal El-Mohtar, Charles Payseur, Sunil Patel, Rachel Swirsky, Jose Iriarte, Liz Argall, Wole Talabi, Emma Osborne, K.M. Szpara, Fran Wilde, Deborah Stanish, Shelley Streeby, Joshua Johnson, Bo Bolander, Fred Coppersmith, Tony Quick, K. Tempest Bradford, Magaly Guerrero, Deanna Knippling, Lara Donnelly, Didi Chanoch, Anthony Cardno, @genrebending, Brian at Nerdbrarian.com… [APOLOGIES to anyone I forgot/left off! contact me and I’ll add you]

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New Story: “Things With Beards”

My new story “Things With Beards” is out now in Clarkesworld!

Essentially a fanfic sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, my story follows MacReady after the events of the movie, returned to his life with his memory full of weird holes.

When MacReady is not MacReady, or when MacReady is simply not, he never remembers it after. The gaps in his memory are not mistakes, not accidents. The thing that wears his clothes, his body, his cowboy hat, it doesn’t want him to know it is there. So the moment when the supply ship crewman walked in and found formerly-frozen MacReady sitting up—and watched MacReady’s face split down the middle, saw a writhing nest of spaghetti tentacles explode in his direction, screamed as they enveloped him and swiftly started digesting—all of that is gone from MacReady’s mind.

cw_117_700And he’s watching AIDS ravage his community. And he’s supporting the work of Black liberation activists who are fighting to stop the cops from brutalizing communities of color. And he might be killing lots of people.

Apex Magazine said “As is typical of Miller’s work, “Things With Beards” delivers a satisfying emotional punch, and serves as an excellent example of contemporary fiction in conversation with a SFF classic.”

Re-watching the film recently, it occurred to me that I really don’t think that people who’ve been killed and replaced by the Thing are aware that they’re Things. This is a contentious topic in Thing fandom, evidently. But I started to think through – what would happen if they didn’t know? How would they behave? How does the Thing function?

Inverse said “A direct sequel to John Carpenters 1982 film The Thing, the short story not only asserts the characters MacReady and Childs as monstrous “things” but more importantly, gay men. Using science fiction to comment on the plight of oppressed or marginalized people is a proud tradition, but what’s telling here is that Miller plucks cinematic characters from an iconic horror/sci-fi film and inserts them into prose.”

Best SF said “another strong story from Miller.”

Tangent Online saidIt wasn’t until the very end of this story that I finally understood the central point Miller was making—what The Thing, itself did —with this one change. Masks. Those masks that we wear every day, hiding our true selves from even the people we love. Very well done, and recommended.”

Editor Neil Clarke said “this is going to piss a lot of people off,” and I think he may be right!

Guerrilla Lit Reading, 5/25: Me, Ryan Britt, Lev Grossman

On May 25th, I’ll return to the fantastic Guerrilla Lit reading series, where I performed way back in March 2009, for a special science fiction night, alongside the brilliant Ryan Britt (you should go now and read everything he ever wrote at Tor.com) and NYT-best-selling-author Lev Grossman.

You should come!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25 AT 7:30PM

DIXON PLACE: 161A Chrystie St., b/w Rivington & Delancey.

Nearby Subway Stops: F to 2nd Avenue; J, Z to Bowery; 6 to Spring; M to Essex; B/D to Grand

Free Admission

The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series has hosted regular readings of emerging and established authors in New York City since 2007. Because the pen is mightier than the Kalashnikov (we hope).

Curated by Lee Matthew Goldberg, Marco Rafalá, Nicole Audrey Spector, and Camellia Phillips

From the event website:

Lev Grossman is the author of five novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy. The Magicians books are published in 25 countries and have been praised by, among others, George R.R. Martin, Audrey Niffenegger, John Green, Joe Hill & Erin Morgenstern. An hour-long drama series based on them is currently airing on Syfy. Grossman is also Time magazine’s book critic & lead technology writer, and he has written essays & criticism for Salon, Slate, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, Lingua Franca, the Week, the Village Voice and the Believer, among others. His journalism has earned him a Deadline award, and the New York Times has called him ‘‘one of this country’s smartest and most reliable critics.’’ He has made frequent appearances on NPR and at festivals, conferences & universities all over the world. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife & three children.

Sam J. Miller is a writer & a community organizer. His fiction is in Lightspeed, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld & The Minnesota Review, among others. He is a nominee for the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Awards, a winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, and a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop. His debut novel The Art of Starving is forthcoming from HarperCollins. He lives in New York City.

Ryan Britt is the author of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read. He has written for The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Awl, VICE Motherboard, Clarkesworld Magazine, and is a consulting editor for Story Magazine. He was the staff writer for the Hugo-Award winning web magazine Tor.com, where he remains a contributor. He lives in New York City.

Sigourney Weaver, in conversation about Aliens

On April 26th, the Town Hall in New York City held a 30th-anniversary screening of Aliens (4/26; the film takes place on the planet LV-426)… followed by a conversation and audience Q&A with Lt. Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver. AND SOMEHOW I WAS IN THAT ROOM!!!

She said lots of amazing stuff. This is me, trying and probably failing to capture some of the highlights.

“I haven’t seen this film for many years, and it’s great to see it on the big screen with such an appreciative audience. It’s so magnificently constructed as a story. All the Marines are such wonderful characters, so beautifully played. In Alien, we didn’t get the chance to really know Ripley, with all her levels. I love her isolation at the beginning of Aliens, the fact that she’s outlived everyone she knew, the world she knew is gone – but The Company doesn’t change.”

“People being in danger is a great catalyst for Ripley – in her mind, she’s earning the right to stay alive. In a situation like that, you do what you have to do. You don’t have time for thought and emotion, and maybe you don’t want those things anyway.”

“The Queen wants to protect her children, too. The face-off at the end between the two mother figures is so important to the themes of motherhood and nurturing that are throughout the film.”

“Using the bazooka was very cathartic for someone who’d been fighting for gun control. I get so excited when I read a script that I don’t always read all the stage directions, so I was very surprised to see so many guns on set, and when I mentioned to Jim ‘I’m not sure about all these guns, you know I’m against guns,’ he said ‘I suggest you read the script again. Because it’s pretty much all guns, all the time.'”

“Unfortunately, I think we have more corporations like Weyland-Yutani now than we did when we made this movie. There’s such an emphasis on profit over everything, no matter the personal or environmental costs – when Paul Reiser tries to justify his actions, these are comments you could read in the paper tomorrow: ‘What we’re doing here is really valuable,’ ‘You don’t understand,’ ‘There’s a lot of money invested in this.’ If anything, our society is going further in this direction, which for me makes Aliens more resonant.”

“In Neill Blomkamp’s sequel, we see a lot more of Ripley and Hicks. It’ll happen, but we have to wait until after Prometheus 2. In fact I just finished a project with Neill that I can’t tell you about, but it was really exciting.”

“In Aliens I was so grateful to have a role where I could get the job done without some skimpy outfit, or something super glamorous. I mean, I don’t want to horrify audiences – I’m sure I wore some makeup, but getting glammed up wouldn’t make sense for this character or what she had to do. I was really fortunate to work with a director who respected that. It’s true that Ripley is a great woman character, but by the end she’s acquired a lot of Everyman, and there’s something that lots of different people can identify with.”

“Gale Ann Hurd [producer of Aliens and tons of other amazing stuff, including The Walking Dead] is very cool and calm and Ripley-like, very diplomatically making everyone move in the same direction.”

“Science fiction is one of the rare spaces in this business where you can tell original stories. And it doesn’t get the respect; critics can’t get their heads around it. This is an exploration of what it means to be human. This is what happens if you don’t take care of climate change.”

The Q&A was mostly full of ridiculous waste-of-Ms-Weaver’s-very-important-time questions (“why didn’t the Alien make a cameo in Ghostbusters? That was a real missed opportunity” (“because we had enough to worry about already”) & “if there was a movie that combined Aliens with Star Trek and Star Wars, would you be in it” (“no”)), but there were a couple of bright spots –

The audience member who said “This is the first time I’ve seen Aliens again since doing two tours in Iraq, and I wanted to tell you that your portrayal of PTSD is so real, it was almost difficult to watch. It really resonated with my experience and that of many people I served with, and I wanted to thank you for your portrayal.”

And when somebody asked her why she hated the Alien vs Predator movies, Sigourney said “Well, I don’t hate them, because I haven’t seen them, because I heard that the Alien doesn’t beat the Predator, and I thought, well, fuck that.”

Sigourney Weaver, in conversation, after a 30th-anniversary screening of Aliens
Sigourney Weaver, in conversation, after a 30th-anniversary screening of Aliens

2015 Nebula Ballot Includes My Story “When Your Child Strays From God”

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America released the ballot for this year’s Nebulas, and I was so pleased that my story “When Your Child Strays From God” is a nominee in the Short Story category! Because wow, what a lineup of wonderful writers who I’m honored to be able to call colleagues. And as the fabulous K. Tempest Bradford points out in this excellent video, it’s a big victory for marginalized voices – 79% of the nominees are NOT straight cis- white men!!

But this nomination is such sweet agony, because while the whole ballot is fantastic, the Short Story category is especially magnificent. As I’ve said elsewhere, Amal El-Mohtar’s “Madeleine” is one of the two best stories of the year (tied with Sadie Bruce’s “Little Girls in Bone Museums”), and Alyssa Wong’s “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” like everything Alyssa does, has a gorgeous ability to flay the flesh from the human heart.

You can read my story here:

When Your Child Strays From God”

Here are what some reviewers had to say:

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“… an evangelical Christian pastor’s wife dealing with the sinful rebelliousness of her teenage son… a really cool made up drug that sounds absolutely transformative and I want to try it (along with a few close friends… very close)… Miller excels at blending cool speculative ideas with characters and situations very much grounded in our world.” – i09 Newstand

“It’s kind of unnerving how well the story explores the intricacies of the woman’s relationship with her son, the woman’s own self-image and outlook on life. It would have been easy to make her something of a monster. Or, I guess, it does make her something of a monster, but a very human one, one that is easily recognizable… It’s an amazing story, people, and you need to go out and read it now. Go, go and read and I will find a tissue and probably something to drink. Because damn.” – Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews

“The story hooks us with its humor and then moves into vulnerable territory in order to make its point… moving and lovely.” – Tangent 

 

 

Life in Fiction 2015: Highlights as a Reader and a Writer

Writing-wise, I had a pretty good 2015. The rest of my life was a miserable mess, but I did all right with my writing. In fact, the best thing ever in my life (selling my novel!) happened 24 hours before the worst thing ever in my life (my father’s passing).

So, yeah. A shitty year, but also an awesome one. Here are my stories that came out in 2015, and the stories that I loved that were written by other people, all of which I think you should think about if you’re in an award-nominating kind of mood, or just looking for something awesome to read.

Calved” in Asimov’s

Probably the story I’m proudest of, from the past year. It was selected for inclusion in three “Best of the Year” anthologies. It’s been published in translation in Czech & Hebrew. Gardner Dozois said in Locus “The best story here is new writer Sam J. Miller’s emotionally-grueling Calved… the twist ending… arrives with the slow inexorableness of a Greek tragedy and strikes with brutal force. Grim stuff,  but compelling.” And the magnificent Jason Sanford “When I finished this story I wanted to scream. I wanted to punish Miller for writing something which so gut my emotions. I wanted to hug him for creating a story so beautifully captivating and so perfectly devastating to read. “Calved” by Sam. J. Miller is one of the year’s best stories and will likely be on my Hugo and Nebula Award short list. Seek this story out and read it.” You can read “Calved” for free over at my website.

Ghosts of Home,” in Lightspeed

“The best story in the August Lightspeed comes from Sam J Miller, who has repeatedly impressed with his first several stories, and who shows a lot of range. “Ghosts of Home” is about the housing crisis of 2008 and its effects on people like the main character Agnes and her mother, but it’s set in a version of our world where household spirits are real.” – Rich Horton, in Locus

When Your Child Strays From God” in Clarkesworld

“… an evangelical Christian pastor’s wife dealing with the sinful rebelliousness of her teenage son… a really cool made up drug that sounds absolutely transformative and I want to try it (along with a few close friends… very close)… Miller excels at blending cool speculative ideas with characters and situations very much grounded in our world.” – i09 Newstand

The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” in Uncanny 

“…puts a supernatural twist on the Stonewall Riots, an important event in the gay rights movement… the story does an excellent job of capturing a moment in time, the injustice of the police, the desperation of men and women trying to find a place to be… a call for change that can easily be brought forward from the past and unpacked in the present.” – Tangent

To Die Dancing in Apex

“Clive has survived the country’s fall into a Revival, a conservative fascism where women are seen and not heard, where everyone works and toils, where the state has access into the minds of every citizen… It’s a heartbreaking story, one that builds tragedy over tragedy, failure over failure, and in the beauty of its prose and the humanity of its characters it whispers a warning. That there are things worth fighting for. That survival is not enough if it exists at the expense of others. Go read this story. Go now.” – Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews

wpid-sketch20113227-1.jpgI also read a ton of great stuff in the past year, so, if you’re in an award-nominating mood, here are some of the things I loved [I missed a ton of great stuff, I am sure, and I will be updating this post in the next couple weeks as I go through my notes and paper mags and email to ensure I’ve captured all the awesome stuff I loved]

New horror story out today: “Angel, Monster, Man,” in Nightmare Magazine

My story “Angel, Monster, Man” has just been released by Nightmare Magazine.

It’s the height of the AIDS crisis. Medications that will help manage the illness are a decade away. Three friends, gay men overwhelmed with rage and sadness, who’ve inherited suitcases and boxes and garbage bags full of unpublished work from fellow writers killed by the virus, invent Tom Minniq: a ghost writer, a collective pseudonym under which to publish all the orphaned work of brilliant writers whose careers were cut short. And while Tom becomes a literary superstar, he doesn’t stay on the page. And he starts acting out their anger in ways that they couldn’t anticipate, and can’t control. And each of them, in turn, is visited by a very different Tom Minniq.

sketch5220376-1.jpgThis story took shape in my mind while reading gay fiction and poetry of the 1980’s. [*] You can’t help but be struck by the staggering volume of young, fresh, powerful, innovative artists whose voices were silenced by HIV/AIDS before they’d had a chance to change the world like they clearly would have. And not just writers – the editors, agents, critics, audiences who supported and built these voices… it’s hard not to come away feeling like fiction was in the middle of a real revolution in terms of storytelling and voice and content and attitude, which was strangled in its crib by a deadly disease and a toxic homophobic patriarchy. But I started thinking: what could have happened, if all that rage and talent and fire hadn’t been snuffed out? What if it came to life and changed everything? All the powerful words that went unwritten, or were written and lost because there was no one left to get them out into the world – what if they all added up to something real – and terrifying?

It’s the first horror story I’ve written since “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicideswon the Shirley Jackson Award for horror/dark fiction, and while I love horror it’s not the place where I feel most comfortable as a writer. But this is a story about the things that terrify me, and I’m happy with it. And I hope you like it.

Podcast of the story is here, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki!

There’s also an interview with me about the story, here, in which I say some pretentious stuff like this:

I believe the bottom line is that it’s our job as humans to fight monsters – with the full knowledge that our understanding of monstrosity will always be imperfect and limited. 

[*] If you’re looking to explore these exciting voices, start with these two great anthologies of poetry from writers lost to HIV/AIDS: Things Shaped in Passing (edited by Michael Klein and Richard McCann), and Persistent Voices (edited by David Groff and Philip Clark)

Issue #6 of Interfictions, co-guest-fiction-edited by me, is out now.

When my dear friend and writing hero Carmen Maria Machado asked me to be her co-editor for the fiction section of two issues of Interfictions, the journal of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, I immediately assumed some sophisticated hacker with intimate knowledge of my most specific desires had hacked her email account. Because I adore Interfictions, and the crucial work of the Foundation. I had volunteered to work on the IAF’s IndieGoGo fundraising appeal the year before because I believed in their mission, and the beautiful things they shepherd into the world.

Now, many months later, our first issue is out in the world. AND IT IS AMAZING!!!

Click here for the Fall issue of Interfictions, in its entirety.

There is so much excellent stuff in this issue. And not just the fiction, which Carmen and I are very proud of. There’s phenomenal stuff curated by arts editor Henry Lien, as well as nonfiction and poetry co-editors Alex Dally MacFarlane and Sofia Samatar, “intoxicating mixes and beautiful clashes of language, mythology, and memory,” as the editors’ note so aptly puts it…

Several of the issue’s pieces deal with family: in “A Primer on Separation,” Debbie Urbanski provides a heartbreaking how-to manual for navigating the gulf that opens up between parent and child, while Lisa Bradley’s “glass womb” reaches into the obscure and frightening territory between siblings. Shveta Thakrar tells a slipstream story of how our mothers’ gifts help us, and sometimes fail us, in “Shimmering, Warm and Bright.” In “Answering Crow’s Call” by Alina Rios, family history falls like a thunderclap.

Moving from personal history to spiritual heritage, “Psychopomp” by Indrapramit Das looks at life and death through the lens of Hindu philosophy in the shadow of a cosmic tsunami. In “Assemble”, theatre dybbuk, in collaboration with the Center for Jewish Culture, Leichtag Foundation, and the New School of Architecture and Design, create a unique theatre/dance/architecture piece inspired by the ancient ritual surrounding the harvest festival of Sukkot. Along with these works that engage some of the world’s oldest cultural forms, you’ll find lively interactions with more recent literature: Amy Parker reimagines the young girl of Nabokov’s Lolita, Matthew Jakubowski follows a critic who is trying to write about Mercè Rodoreda’s novelWar, So Much War, and Lauren Naturale searches for lesbian history in the imaginary space of historical fiction. Uche Ogbuji’s “The Furies of Mad Max” engages a contemporary film narrative, while Rebecca Gould’s translations of five ghazals by Hasan Sijzi (d. 1337) bring to English contemplations on gardens, birds, swords and wine.

These works ask how we perceive the world and how we communicate. Such questions lie at the heart of Nneoma Ike-Njoku’s “Old Ghosts,” which conjures the other world through sound, and “Perhaps, perhaps” by Saudamini Deo, which traces the limits of photography and ultimately the limits of sight. In Rebecca Campbell’s “I Just Think It Will Happen, Soon,” a woman and others like her are beckoned by an urgent, pulsing mystery beyond the realm of most people’s perception.

Finally, in a special roundtable dedicated to translation, the Bulgarian, German, Hebrew, Hungarian and Japanese translators of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice talk about the changes and inventions required to represent the novel’s gender ambiguity and female pronoun usage.

I must take a moment to acknowledge the real heroes here, our fearless insightful wise and tolerant slush readers! Christian Coleman, Eugene Fischer, Val Howlett, Susana Marcelo, Patrick Ropp, Gabriela Santiago, and Isabel Yap all read a staggering volume of contributions – in a submissions window of only two weeks, we received over five hundred stories!!! Many of them amazing! Many (many!) of them… not. But thanks to these hard-working and astute judges of literary quality, we knew which were which.

Seeing it online, now, with all these incredible stories we chose, alongside so many other exciting works of poetry and prose and art and all the ineffable categories in between, makes me feel proud in a totally different way from the pride I feel seeing something of mine in a table of contents. It’s more parental, almost, or like what a teacher must feel. “I have helped someone do something awesome; I am helping someone shine,” instead of “I am shining.” I understand why people are editors. These people are wonderful people. Because editing is hard. It is super super hard.

And, oh, hey, writers – as Carmen said so well on her blog:

We’ll be guest-editing the spring issue, as well. If you’re thinking about submitting, a note about stuff we saw in this submission pile: For some reason, we received quite a few stories that, while they were excellent, were not in any way interstitial. Not in form, or genre, or anything. They were straight science fiction/fantasy/realism, and traditionally told at that. The problem is that even if these sorts of stories blow our socks off, we can’t publish it in Interfictions, which is a space for weird, hybrid, unclassifiable work. (The Interstitial Arts Foundation defines interstitial art here.) So we wanna see the stuff of yours that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Send it to us! *makes grabby hands*

The full list of stories from the issue is here:

Pay what you want for the “Orange Volume” anthology – a fundraiser for the Clarion Writer’s Workshop

I credit the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop with 100% of the amazing good fortune I’ve had in the past three years. The stories I’ve sold, the awards I’ve been nominated for, the magnificent friendships I’ve formed with incredible writers and editors and agents and readers – none of that could have happened if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to end up as part of the Clarion class of 2012…. aka THE AWKWARD ROBOTS. (for a mere taste of all the wisdom and awesome that I absorbed at Clarion, check out this list of 300+ pieces of writing advice from our workshops!)

My brilliant teachers and classmates made me so so so much better than I was, and for 40+ years the Clarion Workshop has been spawning amazing new science fiction and fantasy and horror writers… Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Cory Doctorow, Nalo Hopkinson, Kelly Link… the list is overwhelming, and well-nigh-endless.

Because we were so transformed by the experience, as people and as writers, my class is committed to keeping the Clarion experience alive. So for the second year in a row, we Awkward Robots have created an anthology of short fiction that’s available for sale as a fundraiser for the Clarion Foundation! These are original stories you can’t find anywhere else, from fucking amazing writers, some of whom are already setting the genre on fire, and the rest of whom are ABOUT to do so. The Awkward Robots’ Orange Volume is a collection of stories from the Clarion UCSD class of 2012, proudly presented as a fundraiser for the Clarion Foundation.

BUY IT HERE!

BoingBoing says:

“Time traveling gamers, levee-breaking mermaids, and frayed sanity on the first manned mission to Europa. It’s all packed between the pages of The Orange Volume. The cohesive Clarion class of 2012 is at it again. Last year they released The Red Volume and raised $1,500 for the Clarion Foundation. This year–just in time for Halloween–they’re following up with The Orange Volume.”

It features fifteen original stories, and is offered for a limited time on a pay-what-you-can basis. It comes in multiple, DRM-free e-book formats (epub/iBooks, mobi/Kindle, and PDF). All proceeds (after hosting fees) will be donated to the Clarion Foundation

Or, you can also donate directly via PayPal to awkwardrobots2012@gmail.com

Pay what you can… BUT REMEMBER IT’S FOR CHARITY TO MAKE AWESOME NEW SCIFI NINJAS, SO KICK US A MEANINGFUL CHUNK OF CHANGE!

THE FULL CAST OF THE AWKWARD ROBOTS! l-r: Lisa Bolekaja, Pierre Liebenberg, Deborah Bailey, Sam J. Miller, Luke R. Pebler, Sadie Bruce, E.G. Cosh, Daniel McMinn, Eliza Blair, Eric Esser, UCSD director Shelley Streeby, Sarah Mack, Lara Elena Donnelly, Danica Cummins, Joseph Kim, Jonathan Fortin, Chris Kammerud, instructor Jeffrey Ford, Carmen Maria Machado, Ruby Katigbak

clariongroup

First-Ever “Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy” Contains My Story “We Are The Cloud” (!!)

The “Best American” series is justifiably revered, consistently gathering up the best of the best in different fields of American writing and serving it up on a best-selling platter. Like most writers I’ve always dreamed of seeing myself in its pages – and I sort of did, a couple years ago, when my short memoir piece “The Luke Letters” was an “Honorable Mention” in Best American Essays 2013

So when I heard that there was going to be a Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, my first thought was incredible excitement that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt would be bringing the same series magic to my favorite fiction genres. And when I heard that John Joseph Adams was going to be the series editor, well, then I knew that the series would live up to its name.

AND YET, in spite of that, SOMEHOW, my Nebula-nominated novelette “We Are The Cloud” was included in the inaugural edition! A fact that is even more unbelievable when you see that the other authors in there include incredible folks like Carmen Maria Machado, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Kelly Link, Sofia Samatar, Karen Russell, Theodora Goss, and T.C. Boyle!

Tor.com highlighted my story in their review of the anthology, saying:

“Sam Miller’s Nebula-nominated short story, “We Are The Cloud,” is a painful look at disenfranchisement, technology, power, and fleeting human connection in a world that only wants to use and hurt you, and how to fight systems and institutions designed to keep you under a heel.”

So did the fab blog SF Signal, saying:

“One of my personal favorites in the entire collection. Filled with the type of fantastically simple prose that lets you sink deep into a robust world, complex character relationships, and a heartbreaking story about what it means to be alone in the digital age.”

You can buy this book in LITERALLY EVERY BOOKSTORE PRACTICALLY. And online. But you should buy it in a bookstore. Because bookstores are awesome.

And so is this book.

wpid-picsart_10-16-09.09.08.jpg

“Ghosts of Home” is Out Now in Lightspeed!

The August 2015 issue of Lightspeed Magazine contains my story “Ghosts of Home.”

There’s an interview with me about the story here. 

And an audio version, read marvelously by Roxanne Hernandez, here! 

Rich Horton wrote this very kind review of it in Locus:

“The best story in the August Lightspeed comes from Sam J Miller, who has repeatedly impressed with his first several stories, and who shows a lot of range. “Ghosts of Home” is about the housing crisis of 2008 and its effects on people like the main character Agnes and her mother, but it’s set in a version of our world where household spirits are real. Agnes’s job is to placate the household spirits of foreclosed homes. She’s not supposed to directly interact with them, but when one manifests as a really attractive young man, she has a hard time resisting. It sounds sweet, but the core of the story is much less so, with rapacious banks, sad houses, and a soured relationship between the somewhat messed-up Agnes and her also messed-up mother.”

Over at i09, K. Tempest Bradford said this:

The main thing I love about this story is that it empathizes with a type of person who doesn’t often get empathy. We often hear about those mysterious people out there who vote against their own interests or support politicians, policies, and official actions that harm them personally or harm their community. Writing such people off is easy. Understanding how it is they got to that place isn’t, and that’s one of the things Miller tackles here. I also love the idea of houses having spirits that must be appeased once the house is empty for too long. Highly Recommended.

 

Tangent said:

What makes this interesting is the broken protagonist’s struggle to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of the financial collapse. The protagonist’s stakes in deciding how to handle choices are raised by a recovering-addict’s history of bad decisions, complicated by personal relationships with the local spirits the bank requires its contractor to placate but otherwise ignore… By imbuing homes with souls, insecurities, and emotional risks, the story places the foreclosure crisis on an entirely nonfinancial plane. The protagonist’s successive decisions to act human, instead of enforcing a bank’s soulless values on its surroundings, each invite wonder whether each represents a mistake – like that last descent into addiction’s grip in a decision to score – or represents a step toward redemption. It’s an exciting story with a feeling of real emotional stakes, set in a world built seamlessly and without pause while characters’ actions rivet readers.

 

24 MORE HOURS to submit to Interfictions for the issue I’m guest-editing!

I’m guest-co-fiction-editing two issues of Interfictions Online, the amazing magazine of genre-bending and genre-breaking and genre-ignoring prose and poetry and art and more. AS IF THAT WASN’T EXCITING ENOUGH, my co-editor is my Clarion sister and Nebula competition fellow-nominee and all-around idol Carmen Maria Machado!

But the submission window is closing fast. AS IN, YOU’VE GOT 24 MORE HOURS to send us – as Carmen put it – “your weird, your beautiful, your impossible-to-categorize.”

SUBMIT. 

For real. 

“Calved” is out now from Asimov’s

My short story “Calved” is in the September issue of Asimov’s! You can also read it here. 

I’ve been submitting stories to Asimov’s off and on since I was 14 (I’m not too proud or vain to admit that that’s 22 years ago), so it’s overwhelmingly awesome to have finally gotten a story in such a great venue.

Over at Locus, Lois Tilton wrote:

“Father and son story in a near future when the Arctic melting and the rise of the oceans has led to a flood of refugees; North Americans are generally unwelcome, and Dom is relatively fortunate to have found a place on a floating city and grunt work on iceboats. The only good thing in his life has been the son whom he can only see when he gets back from three-month work shifts on the boats, but now, looking at Thede, he sees a stranger who seems to hate him… This scenario is the most science-fictional in the issue, realistically depicting likely consequences of global climate change.”

The awesome Jason Sanford wrote a really great review as well, saying in part:

“Dom is desperate to change his son’s opinion. And to accomplish this he … does something which will haunt me for years to come.

“When I finished this story I wanted to scream. I wanted to punish Miller for writing something which so gut my emotions. I wanted to hug him for creating a story so beautifully captivating and so perfectly devastating to read.

“Calved” by Sam. J. Miller is one of the year’s best stories and will likely be on my Hugo and Nebula Award short list. Seek this story out and read it.”

Asimov’s is sold in newsstands and bookstores everywhere. AIRPORTS, EVEN. You can also order a copy online, or get an excellent e-book edition for your digital reader. Check it out. It’s got a tiger on the cover. And my story inside. MY STORY INSIDE.

OH HEY I SOLD MY NOVEL

This is really happening.

My debut novel, The Art of Starving, will be published by HarperCollins. It’s young adult, science fiction, super dark and edgy and messed up.

Publishers Weekly ran this story on Tuesday, July 21st:

“Kristen Pettit of HarperCollins has bought THE ART OF STARVING by Sam J. Miller; it’s a novel about a gay, bullied, small-town boy with an eating disorder who believes that starving himself awakens a latent ability to read minds, predict behavior, and control the fabric of time and space. Publication is planned for spring 2017; Seth Fishman at the Gernert Company brokered the deal for North American rights.”

oh, hey, scuse me for a minute

::rolls around on the floor sobbing::

ok.

Honestly I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet, not fully. I’m beyond ecstatic to have found such a marvelous home for this book that means so much to me. I owe everything to my brilliant agent Seth Fishman, and to my beloved writing comrades in the Clarion class of 2012 and in Altered Fluid, who, besides providing the love and support and great critiques that have helped polish whatever dull shard of talent I might possess, also gave incredible feedback on the messy messy first draft of this book.

Most importantly, I owe a ton of love and gratitude to my family, my husband Juancy and my sister Sarah and my mom, but especially to my father, Hyman Miller, who for the past seven years exemplified strength and hope and fearlessness in his fight with cancer. Two weeks before this deal, dad said “I just want to see you publish a book before I die,” and we finalized this book deal the day before he passed away. So while this has been a really tough couple of weeks for me and my family, I’m so proud and happy that he knew I had achieved this life goal.

And to celebrate this novel about a sad boy with an eating disorder, here, have some pictures I drew, of happy chubby gay guys (based on the incredible work of the Japanese manga doujinshi artist SUV).

“We Are the Cloud” is a Finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award

Last week I learned that my novelette “We Are the Cloud,” originally published in Lightspeed, is a finalist for the incredible Theodore Sturgeon Award… alongside amazing work by writers I adore, like Tananarive Due, Eugie Foster, Daryl Gregory, Ken Liu… and Octavia Butler.

This story owes a profound debt to Octavia Butler’s Mind of My Mind, my favorite science fiction novel ever, so for it to be nominated up against a story by her for a prestigious award is totally messing with my emotions. I’m honored, and humbled.

Photos from My Reading with Samuel R. Delany

On April 21st, I was incredibly privileged to read alongside one of my all-time favorite science fiction writers and biggest heroes, Samuel R. Delany.

The place was packed, with 85+ people crowding the newly-renovated Commons, complete with cafe and wine bar. Tons of my favorite writers were in attendance, including N.K. Jemisin, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, and many members of my illustrious writer’s group, Altered Fluid – Richard Bowes, Kris Dikeman, Matt Kressel,  Mercurio D. Rivera, and… N.K. Jemisin.

I read a specially pared-down version of my Nebula-nominated novelette “We Are the Cloud,” and got tons of great feedback and love for it.

And then… I got the honor of hearing Chip Delany read, and was not disappointed. He kicked it off by reading an OUTRAGED review of his novel “Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders” [This review was very similar to one that “We Are The Cloud” received, and just goes to show you, if you have gay people in your stuff, and they have sex, some people WILL BE OUTRAGED]. As a reader he is every bit as wise and humorous and weighty and light as he is as a writer. Seriously, if you haven’t read Dhalgren, you need to put it on your calendar, because you’re really not ready to meet your maker[s] until you’ve done so.

Here’s video of the evening here, expertly produced by Terence Taylor (though the Livestream started broadcasting early and there’s some dead air at the start – show proper starts around the 23-minute mark). See below for some pictures, taken by a bunch of different folks in attendance. PLEASE DON’T JUDGE ME for going totally overboard with posting so many shots BUT THIS EVENT WAS TOO EXCITING.

Between Sams, Ellen Kushner exhorted us to support the crowdfunding campaign for the anthology “Stories for Chip.” AND NOW I AM EXHORTING YOU TO DO LIKEWISE. From the campaign description:

Editors Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell have gathered together an exciting array of fiction and incisive essays by over 30 acclaimed and award-winning authors, including Geoff Ryman, Nalo Hopkinson, Eileen Gunn, Nick Harkaway, andJunot Díaz, plus rising stars of astonishing power and creativity. Over three-quarters of the 150,000 words contained in this volume are original to the book. Amazingly diverse along multiple axes, Stories for Chip is a fitting tribute to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Samuel R. Delany, a genius who never met a boundary he didn’t challenge.

 

Audience at Sam J. Miller/Samuel R. Delany Reading. Photo by Melissa C. Beckman http://www.melissabeckman.com/
One small corner of the huge audience at the Sam J. Miller/Samuel R. Delany Reading. Photo by Melissa C. Beckman http://www.melissabeckman.com/

 

Terence Taylor produces the live video broadcast! Photo by Jim Freund.
Terence Taylor produces the live video broadcast! Photo by Jim Freund.

 

 

Anxiously waiting for the event to start. Photo by Juancy Rodriguez.
Anxiously waiting for the event to start. Photo by Juancy Rodriguez.
Me, introducing my story. Photo by Marco Palmieri
Me, introducing my story. Photo by Marco Palmieri
Me in the middle of reading my Nebula-nominated novelette "We Are the Cloud." Photo by Juancy Rodriguez.
Me in the middle of reading my Nebula-nominated novelette “We Are the Cloud.” Photo by Juancy Rodriguez.
Between readings, Ellen Kushner encourages us all to seek out and support the Indiegogo campaign in support of the anthology "Stories for Chip." Photo by Juancy Rodriguez
Between readings, Ellen Kushner encourages us all to seek out and support the Indiegogo campaign in support of the anthology “Stories for Chip.” Photo by Juancy Rodriguez
Chip reads to us from a bad review of "Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders." Photo by Juancy Rodriguez
Chip reads to us from a bad review of “Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders.” Photo by Juancy Rodriguez
Photo by Angus McIntyre
Photo by Angus McIntyre

“We Are The Cloud” is a Nebula Nominee!

In a truly amazing and wonderful surprise, my novelette “We Are The Cloud” is a nominee for the Nebula Award! Scrolling through the list of past nominees is like a guide to [almost] everyone who’s even remotely awesome in science fiction and fantasy, including idols of mine like Ted Chiang, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Jorge Luis Borges, William Gibson…. and I’m just stunned to be in that number.

I worked on this story from 2008 to 2013, and am more proud of it than almost anything else I’ve ever written. So I was beyond ecstatic when it was published by Lightspeed in September…

… and not entirely surprised when it turned out to be the most controversial thing I’ve done… [this from the same guy who once write a story called “Auschwitz Blowjob,” which was accepted into – and then nixed by the publisher of – an anthology series that billed itself as America’s “most provocative gay writing”].
SPOILER ALERT: homophobes hated “We Are The Cloud.” Tangent complained of its “offensive imagery of underage homosexuality in gratuitous proportions,” said it “needs to come with a warning.”

But it wasn’t just homophobes!

A bunch of people said it wasn’t really genre fiction, that “Science fiction elements are all but missing,” or called out its “inattentive world-building,” or said that it “doesn’t really work as a piece of traditional genre fiction as its future is dated, derivative and poorly realised”

In the end, though, the story found its audience, and I was blessed with some truly incredible reviews.

Over at Apex, Charlotte Ashley wrote that “Miller has a nearly unparallelled knack for writing heart-wrenching characters and painful personal attachments… By vesting Sauro with all this power and then showing both why he doesn’t use it and what might make him use it, Miller is telling the story of all power, regardless of how “speculative” it is. Power dynamics are forged by class, money, personality, hate, and love. Technology is the last factor on the list.”

Amal El-Mohtar wrote a crushingly kind and weep-inducing review, and said, among other wonderful things: “I loved this story unabashedly: Sauro’s voice and vulnerability, the generosity of his character, and the integrity of his engagement with the unflinching awfulness of the premise are tremendously effective. It’s a heart-breaking, harrowing piece, made all the more so by that near-future vision’s many intersections with the present: in his Author Spotlight, Miller expands on the realities of foster kids’ prospects and the gross systemic injustices they face. It’s also a desperately elegant story, combining a careful structure with a depth and intensity of emotion that puts me in mind of ivy bursting from a brick wall; the very controlled, deliberate punctuation of Sauro’s present with moments from his past is a mixing of mechanical and organic reminiscent of the cloud-ports themselves.”

I’d love to win, but my category is PACKED with truly brilliant stories.

If you’re a SFWA member, I hope you’ll consider voting for it. But you can’t really go wrong, with a roster of nominees this incredible, and I’d be honored to lose to any of these fine folks.


AND HERE’S A PICTURE I DREW TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY.

I’m “Recommended Reading” in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014!

I bought the new edition of Rich Horton’s consistently-excellent “Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy” anthology because (1) it’s consistently excellent, and (2) it had a story by my hero/ine Alaya Dawn Johnson that I hadn’t read before. So imagine my surprise when I finished the story and dried my tears and browsed through the “Recommended Reading” at the back of the book, and found my story “The Beasts We Want To Be,” from the final issue of Electric Velocipede!

Now, of course it would have been awesome to have my story ACTUALLY be in the anthology, but this recommended reading list is some pretty exquisite company to be in! Especially considering that two of the very best stories I read all year – Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling,” and Vylar Kaftan’s “The Weight of the Sunrise” – are also there. Other phenomenal writers that I’m honored to be listed alongside include Charlie Jane Anders, Indrapramit Das, Aliette de Bodard, Jeffrey Ford, Theodora Goss, Maria Dhavana Headley, Matthew Kressel, Ken Liu, Sofia Samatar, Ken Schneyer, Michael Swanwick, Rachel Swirsky, Genevieve Valentine, and Carrie Vaughn.

In two weeks, it will be two years since I went away to the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Workshop in San Diego. To find myself listed in a best-of anthology alongside TWO of my Clarion teachers (Jeff and Ted) is the kind of bizarre wonderful surprise that almost kinda sorta soothes the lifelong-sadness-burn of returning to the real world when Clarion ends.

A new Clarion class is about to embark on the same adventure. I can’t wait to see their names in the best-of anthologies of years to come!

Vote for me, for the Locus Award!

My short story “The Beasts We Want To Be,” published in the final issue of Electric Velocipede, is on the ballot for the 43rd annual Locus Awards. Please check out my story, and vote for it if you like it! Deadline for voting is April 15th. Anyone can vote, but votes from Locus subscribers count double.

Some awesome people had some awesome things to say about it –

Gardner Dozois wrote of “The Beasts We Want to Be”:

Electric Velocipede 26 and 27 each … contained one of the best stories of the year…. The best story in Electric Velocipede 27, the magazine’s final issue, is “The Beasts We Want to Be” by new writer Sam J. Miller, a dark, brutal story of the kind of men produced by harrowing conditioning sessions with Skinner Boxes and electroshock therapy in an alternate Russia just after the Communist Revolution and how those men struggle to reconcile what they have become with what they once were.

Locus included it in their 2013 Recommended Reading List.

The ChiZine blog called it “heartbreaking,” and “a searing critique of society’s uncompromising expectation of a specific kind of masculinity,” and that while the protagonist “learns about beauty, love and the dangers of the Pavlov Boxes… in the end none of these messages have half the strength of the genuine grief at lost friendship that seeps off the page.”

Rich Horton wrote:

“The Beasts We Want to Be” by new writer Sam J. Miller [is] a strong SF horror story set in an alternate post-Revolution Russia told by a “Broken” soldier who has been conditioned in a “Pavlov’s Box” to serve the goals of the Revolution as he commandeers the artwork of an aristocratic family, then finds himself drawn to save a woman of that family from reconditioning, and then to save a painting of her husband.  Very dark stuff.

In her 2013 year in review for Locus, Lois Tilton called it “a strongly realistic piece of human loss.”

The online ballot is here; once again, the deadline is April 15th. Please check out my story, and vote for it if you like it! And then read tons of the other stuff on there. Everything on that list that I’ve read has been phenomenal, including stuff by friends and heroes like Ted Chiang, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Matthew Kressel, Jeffrey Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, Amahl El-Mohtar, Ken Liu, Aliette De Bodard, Indrapramit Das, James Patrick Kelly, Charlie Jane Anders, Christopher Barzak, Catherynne Valente, Kenneth Schneyer, Genevieve Valentine, and so many more.

I’ll be Part of the Lost & Found Show’s “Video Games” Edition!

This Wednesday I’ll be reading at the Lost & Found Show’s Video Games Edition, at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in New York City.

I have a well-documented obsession with old-school Nintendo games, so  I was excited to be asked to participate. And I love how the line-up of writers includes folks from lots of different artistic backgrounds.

The Facebook event is here; see below for all the details!

The Lost & Found Show’s “Video Games” Edition – Wednesday March 12th!

Featuring:

Peter Olson (Marvel, UCB, Spike TV)
Sam J. Miller (The Rumpus, Minnesota Review)
Matt London (Tor.com, Fantasy Magazine)
Anna Roisman (MTV, Huffington Post, College Humor)

Musical Guest:

The Royal Bees

Special Trivia Sponsored by:

Games For Change

Hosted by Daniel Guzman

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
(Doors 7:00PM) 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM

The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker St
(between Sullivan St. and Thompson St)
New York, NY 10012

Nearest Trains:
W 4th St (A, B, C, D, E, F, M)
8 St – NYU (N, R)
Bleecker St (6)
Broadway-Lafayette (B, D, F, M)

21+
FREE

Each month, we bring together authors, bloggers, comedians, and performers to share fiction and nonfiction stories involving a theme object that could be found in a lost and found box. We’ve featured burlesque stars, magicians, Moth Grand Slam winners, actors, someone’s mom, and a ukulele player.

For a list of upcoming theme objects, or to submit a story for consideration, visit:
lostfoundshow.com
Twitter: @lostfoundshow
Facebook.com/lostfoundshow

“The Beasts We Want to Be,” in Electric Velocipede #27

The final issue of Electric Velocipede is out now. While I’m really sad this phenomenal journal is gone, I am really proud to have my story “The Beasts We Want to Be” included alongside tons of terrific work in this issue.

I wrote this one at Clarion 2012 – it’s about Soviet human experimentation, brotherly love, bloody revenge, and a maybe-magical painting. It was reviewed in Locus Magazine, who named it a “Recommended” story (and said “…The heart of it is this: How can ordinary people be brought to do acts of routine brutality? Or that there is something human in the worst of us?…”). Locus also cited it in their year-end best short fiction post.

Electric Velocipede also did a short interview with me, which they ran on their Facebook page, and which I’m pasting in here for folks who aren’t on Facebook.

1. What inspired you to write this story?
I firmly believe that the universe sends me important messages via the shuffle function on my MP3 player. The germ of this story sprouted when the National’s song “Abel” came on while I was out for a run, and for years I’ve wanted to capture in fiction the relationship that song describes. It’s about two men, friends, one of whom makes the other want to be a better person. Really it’s about the function our friends serve in our lives, and what happens to us when they disappear. And I find friendships between straight men fascinatingly fraught and complex in general. At the time I was attending the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop, and learning so much from my teachers and classmates about the limitless palette that speculative fiction gives us to explore the human experience in the most ridiculous marvelous ways. So of course I immediately thought: post-Revolution/Civil-War-era Soviet Russia, monstrous human experimentation, magical painting, deceit, betrayal, love, revenge, death. Like you do. And then Ted Chiang read it and asked me like one question that turned my whole world on end and helped me turn the story into something way more awesome than anything I could have done on my own.

2. What’s your favorite thing about it?
I think the Pavlov Boxes are neat. I’ve always found Soviet history to be pretty fricking SFF, but I’m aware that FOR SOME REASON other people don’t get quite so excited about the subject. So if I captured that in a way other people can get into, I’m pleased.

3. What is your favorite color?
I love them all. You’d have to be more specific. For clothing I love dark greys, reds, blues. For food I love greens and reds. For nature I love a nice autumn palette.

EPIC WIN: Last Night’s LGBTQ Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading!!

Last night, I had the honor of curating and co-MC’ing an incredible lineup of LGBT science fiction & fantasy writers. Carmen Maria Machado (who wrote this excellent writeup on the event), Val Howlett, myself, Richard Bowes, Ellen Kushner,  and Delia Sherman read a fascinating and diverse range of work; I had been worried about having such an ambitious list of readers, but everyone presented tight, terse, strong work and we kept it moving and the whole shebang of six readers was done in just about an hour!!

[CLICK PICTURE TO SEE US FULL-SIZE]

But the real star of the evening was the crowd. SO MANY PEOPLE CAME!!! So humbling to see so many people I know and love – including people who came from California and the UK for this – as well as so many awesome new friends who are fans of queerness or SFFness or both.

Do you know that episode of I Love Lucy where Ricky is tired of hearing Lucy complain about how much work it is to be a homemaker, and says he can do better, and he tries to cook dinner, and he’s making rice, and he puts in four pounds of rice, so of course it overflows and fills the whole kitchen? That’s kind of how last night was. The community organizer in me has been so anxious about there being any empty seats in the house that I did maybe a little bit TOO MUCH turnout work… and the crowd was incredible. Every seat packed; so many people standing up that no one else could even come in the door…people were standing on the January sidewalk with their noses pressed to the glass because they couldn’t get in!

Here’s a glimpse. This was taken at 6:55PM, FIVE MINUTES BEFORE THE EVENT WAS EVEN SCHEDULED TO START; by 7:30 forgetaboutit.

This event was a great reminder of what a privilege it is to be part of two incredibly warm, tight-knit, supportive communities – the queer community, and the speculative fiction community. And when they overlap, like they did last night, it’s a beautiful thing. I had originally hoped to shout out all the incredible people who I know, but there were so many folks there who I adore and it all became such a blur that I am paralyzed by the fear of snubbing someone. I’ll just say that the audience had writers I adore, editors of magazines and of books that I love, and millions of my devoted readers like me.

Also, it was a terrific advertisement for the Clarion Writer’s Workshop. None of this would have happened without Clarion. That’s where I met Carmen, my classmate, and Delia, my teacher – the nucleus of the reading. That’s where my SFF writing chops got sharpened to the point where I could write a pretty solid story like the one I read last night. And that’s where I realized how easy and meaningful it is to be a part of this incredible community.

So. If you’re thinking about applying to Clarion 2013, which has an INCREDIBLE roster of writer-instructors, you should consider this a strong nudge from me. And if the time and the money just aren’t there (as they weren’t, for me, for years), you should join me in making a donation to the Clarion Foundation. Because, karma. And because wonderful things like this don’t turn a profit – the tuition students pay doesn’t begin to cover the actual cash value of the food and lodging and UCSD facilities access, let ALONE the priceless counsel and guidance of your teachers and classmates.

DO IT.

Top Ten Most Ridiculous and Amazing Things Grace Jones Said Between Songs at the Roseland, NYC, Saturday October 27 2012

Saturday night I was so so so fortunate to attend the Grace Jones concert at the Roseland, which, needless to

say to anyone who knows the genius that is Grace, was amazing. There’s tons of photos and videos out there (here are some) of her great clothes (her act contained APPROXIMATELY ONE MILLION COSTUME CHANGES).
So there’s not much I can add, except to say that her banter with the crowd (and her vendetta against the man working her spotlights) was worth the price of admission all on its own.
Here, then, are the ten most ridiculous and amazing things Grace Jones said at the Roseland on October 27, 2012.
  1. “Down, girl!” [to her lady parts] “A bitch is hungry!”
  2. “Oh my God, I need to suck a dick.”
  3. “Oh shit, I missed the whole song. I thought we were doing the long version!” [during THIS epic amazing performance of my absolute favorite song of hers, La Vie en Rose]
  4. “Hello, Mr. Union Man working the lights – can I get the spotlight just on me? [gestures to empty space next to her] There’s no one over here.”
  5. “What is his problem? He must be up there getting a blowjob.”
  6. “Oh, now he hears me. Are you finished up there? Did you cum? Did they swallow?”
  7. “Yes, you sexy mama.” [to the lady who brings her a glass of red wine] “My lesbian moments coming out.”
  8. “Some hurricane is supposed to hit New York City. That bitch is following me!”
  9. “I’m a church girl. [indicates extremely revealing and vaguely Satanic outfit] This is what I wear to church.”
  10. “I KEEP IT TIGHT!”
Grace Jones whipped us into a frenzy USING AN ACTUAL WHIP.
Grace Jones whipped us into a frenzy USING AN ACTUAL WHIP.

YA: Why I – “Never Fall Down,” by Patricia McCormick

Trying something new here… as I read great YA books, I’m going to post short breakdowns explaining “Why I” – why I picked it up, why I took it home, why I finished it, and why I loved it.

I’ll start with “Never Fall Down,” by Patricia McCormick, which is a first-person account of a young boy caught up in the unspeakable horror of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.

WHY I PICKED IT UP

Simple: a great cover. Greg van Eekhout was one of our guest lecturers at Clarion 2012, and he spoke about the challenges (and importance!) of getting publishers to put people of color on book covers. He talked a lot about how vital that is for readers of color, especially young people, to see themselves in the books they read. He’s 100% right, of course, and I know as a young gay reader that it REALLY MESSED WITH MY MIND and my sense of self-esteem and pride when I never read about people like me. But there’s another, more cynical reason that book publishers should have more diversity in cover design: because an unfamiliar face on a book jacket lets all readers know that this is something fresh and new. That’s why I picked up Never Fall Down: I knew it wouldn’t be one more YA story of a WASP coming of age or saving the world.

WHY I TOOK IT HOME The flap sold me: a YA novel about the Khmer genocide???! SOLD. I have a soft spot for genocides. Wait, no, that sounds bad. I hate genocides! But they fascinate me. Because they have so much to tell us about human nature and human history. So the idea of a teenager’s experience in Pol Pot’s Cambodia was really exciting to me.

WHY I FINISHED IT. The voice. The story. The main character. These all work, and they’re inextricably linked. The story is rough and raw and every bit as ugly as any honest depiction of a genocide must be.The voice is fresh and quirky, full of improper English and peculiar cadences that bring Arn to life – a tough scared street kid, trying his best to stay alive to the end of one more day, transformed and deformed by the atrocity all around him and by the ugly things he has to do, but never losing the spark of himself that makes him such a compelling character – and is what allows him to survive.  To be honest the voice was initially tough for me, not because it wasn’t great prose – it was – but because it felt a little too close to the stereotypical English-as-a-second-language assigned to countless Asian characters in less-than-flattering Hollywood films. But by the end I had been convinced, and when I read the afterward, where the author explains how she interviewed the real Arn countless times and found that there was no way to tell his story without his “beautiful, improvised English,” I knew she was right.

WHY I LOVED IT. This book was full of ugliness, but the ugliness never overwhelmed the beauty of the writing and the strength of Arn as a character, the rebellious kid-spirit that could never be broken by the Khmer Rouge, even though they so cavalierly handed out death left and right. Arn is no angel, and he makes the point again and again that he only survived because he did some very bad things, but he also found ways to do good, and these moments of kindness and love and humanity are what carry us through the unspeakable horror. The Afterward, in which Patricia McCormick breaks down how she came to create this book, is the perfect degree of authorial intrusion – not breaking the illusion, but making clear how much was art and how much was artifice.

Thoughts on “The Killing” Finale [SPOILERS]

So the second season of The Killing wrapped up, and while it did a ton of things really well, one thing it did NOT do was set up a third season. The network hasn’t definitively said No to a season three, and there’s still speculation, and of course I’d welcome it, but it’s hard to imagine where it would go.

Salon has a pretty solid piece on the finale, complete with excessive SSS (Standard Salon Snark), but Willa Paskin has this little thingie in there that I really agreed with:

“After two seasons of ‘The Killing,” I am pretty convinced that there is a great show lurking inside of it, but that great show is not a tightly plotted, emotionally affecting crime drama. No, inside “The Killing” lurks a great show about mediocrity, about dogged cops who mean well but are bad at their jobs, adoring parents who love their children but damage them anyway, well-meaning politicians who intend to stay clean but make too many compromises. It’s not a searing indictment of corruption or malfeasance. It’s not a show about flashy, cynical or malignant characters. It’s a methodical drama about being middling, about those people whose very best is not great.”

That, in a nutshell, is what I love about this show. These aren’t great cops. They’re damaged people. These aren’t perfect parents. When the politicians mean well, which isn’t always, their good intentions are likely to be sabotaged by their own weakness. The show works because the characters work.

And that’s where I found the finale unsatisfying. The murder gets resolution, but many of the characters I cared the most about did not. The ultimate revelation of the murderer was profoundly emotionally effective, but obviously this show has only marginally been about the murder and the investigation – it’s why it’s NOT “a 26-hour episode of Law and Order”. It’s been more about the characters, especially in Season Two when so many of our favorites experience profound crises… Maybe just because he’s my favorite (even though I hated him for the first few episodes), I wanted more for Holder – more resolution, more of a sense of arriving somewhere, a sense of how this case transformed him. Even Linden, who ends the show with more of a “I’m ready to move on,” we don’t know if she’s really changed or if she just solved this particular troubling case so she should be fine until the next horrific murder of a young woman lands on her lap…

To Clarion… and Beyond.

The Clarion Writer’s Workshop is pretty much the awesomest science fiction/fantasy/horror writing program in the known universe. My all-time hero Octavia Butler says it was “the most valuable help I received with my writing.” Other amazing graduates include Ted ChiangTobias S. BuckellCory DoctorowKim Stanley RobinsonBruce Sterling, and Jeff Vandermeer.

And, pretty soon, me.

I’m really excited to announce that I was accepted into the 2012 cadre, and next week I’m heading out to San Diego for six weeks of up-close-and-personal time with my very talented instructors and fellow classmates. I’m ridiculously grateful to my comrades at Picture the Homeless for covering me while I take a sabbatical for all that time, and to the Clarion Foundation and the New York Science Fiction Society (aka The Lunarians) for financial support, including the Donald A. and Elsie B. Wollheim Memorial Scholarship.

My instructors are all amazing. Ted Chiang! Holly Black! Jeffrey Ford! Cassandra Clare! Delia Sherman! Walter Jon Williams!

AND we’ve been given day passes by the wonderful folks at San Diego Comic-Con, which for a nerd like me would be pretty frakking cool even if it wasn’t bracketed by weeks and weeks of amazing sci-fi writing training.

Cory Doctorow saidI’m the writer I am today because of my Clarion experiences. There isn’t a day that’s gone by in the past 15 years that I haven’t thought of some bit of wisdom I gleaned during my six weeks.”

I’ll admit that there’s something a little terrifying about a program referred to as “boot camp for science fiction writers” (I mean, boot camp is terrifying in any context, conjuring up Full-Metal-Jacket-style imagery of ferocious barking drill sergeants and sensitive boys driven to murder-suicide). But I’ve had a job since I was 12, and I’ve never in my entire writing career been able to take more than a week off of work to focus on a project – my writing time is always hard-won through the sacrifice of sleep or social life – and I’ve never had any instructors besides the great writers I’m privileged to call my friends, who give me feedback and support. So this is sort of a transformative moment in my writing career.  And while I’d love to think I’ll return from it as a fully-realized Avatar of brilliant amazing science-fiction writing, who will immediately write and publish tons of brilliant shit and restore balance to the world, I know this is just one more piece of the endless apprenticeship that is any writer’s career.

I won’t be going near Facebook. I’ll do very little email. I might blog here and there, but probably not stuff that’s directly related to the workshop. So if it seems like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth, hey, that’s not a bad idea for a science fiction story, but it ain’t the truth. I’m just cloistered.

[For folks who are thinking about Clarion for themselves in the future, a good way to start prepping might be the upcoming CLARION WRITE-A-THON, which raises funds to pay for scholarships. ]

Me & Alvin Orloff: Reading at the “Why Aren’t You Smiling?” Release Party

I’m super excited to be reading alongside one of my fave queer writers, Alvin Orloff, at the NYC release party for his new book Why Aren’t You Smiling?

Alvin wrote Gutter Boys, which my husband and I both adored (you can see him enjoying it back in 2005 in the picture, below).

If you’re in or near NYC on the night of June 6th, come on by!

Joe Westmoreland, Sam J. Miller, Stephen Boyer, and Ben Rosenberg join Alvin Orloff to celebrate the release his latest novel on Manic D Press.

Unnameable Books – Brooklyn NY – 7:30PM – June 6th – 600 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238-3803.

The Facebook event is here.

The novel – called “endearingly funny” by K. M. Soehnlein, “hilariously funny” by Kevin Killian, and “swell” by Daniel Handler – follows a clueless queer teen’s ill-fated quests for spiritual enlightenment and social acceptance amidst the cultural no-man’s land of mid 1970s California.

Five vivacious and talented writers will be joining forces to celebrate the release of Alvin Orloff’s latest novel, Why Aren’t You Smiling? on Manic D Press. The story follows a clueless queer teen’s ill-fated quests for spiritual enlightenment and social acceptance amidst the cultural wasteland of mid 1970s California. Daniel Handler called the book “swell” and K.M. Soehnlein deemed it “endearingly funny.”

Alvin Orloff, a longtime San Francisco denizen, began writing in 1977, penning lyrics for his friend’s punk band, The Blowdryers. He spent the couple decades dabbling in performance art, activism, underground theater, low-level wage-slavery, and exotic dancing, all the while scribbling for now-forgotten ‘zines. In 1996 he co-authored The Unsinkable Bambi Lake, a transsexual showbiz memoir, following that with I Married an Earthling (2000) and Gutter Boys (2004). He will be reading from his latest, Why Aren’t You Smiling? (2011).

Stephen Boyer is the author of the chapbook GHOSTS and has been published in the anthology Cool Thing: Best New Gay Fiction, Madder Lover: Queer Men and the Precincts of Surrealism, for the gallery 2nd Floor Projects, the Occupied Wall Street Journal as well as elsewhere. Boyer also put together the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology. He’ll be reading from his novel PARASITE.

Joe Westmoreland has published a short story and essay in AlLuPiNiT, contributed from 2003-06 a column “Still Kickin’” to POZ Magazine, has been published in the anthologies Discontents, The New Fuck You, XXX Fruit, Best American Gay Fiction1996, Queer 13: Lesbian and Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade, Latin Lovers: True Stories of Latin Men In Love, and The Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly. His novel, Tramps Like Us, was first published June 2001, and is available from the University of Wisconsin Press. He is currently working on his second novel. He will be reading a new story called “Falling Don.”

Ben Rosenberg is a multimedia designer and performer currently working in New York City. He is a part of queer electro punk collective, Lotus Eater Machine, and curates PHAN[T.A.Z.]MAGORIA!, an irregular series bringing together artists from across disciplines to create an interactive, multi-sensory experience.

Sam J. Miller is a writer and a community organizer. His work has been published in places like The Minnesota Review, Arts & Letters, Fiction International, and lots more. He’s the co-editor of the critical anthology “Horror After 9/11,” which New York Magazine included in the “Brilliant/Lowbrow” quadrant of its famed Approval Matrix.

If you’re not reading Conner Habib’s blog…

… I just sort of feel sorry for you.

Our lives are radical acts that demand radical compassion to be understood.”

Seriously, go there now. Go there, and read it, and get your dungeon shook, and fall in love, because he’s an amazing writer, and subscribe to it in your RSS reader or whatever the kids are using these days, and then go about your business, probably work but maybe not, the economy is rough and a lot of people don’t have work, and then click back in a couple of hours because you can’t stop thinking about it, and then go through and read three years worth of awesome writing in one sitting, probably neglecting some important things in the process.

Or is that just me?

“I’d jerk off to them being my friends.”

Big kudos to the unfailingly-awesome Rumpus for reprinting and hyping Conner, which is what brought him to my attention, or anyway brought his blog to my attention because maybe I was already, uh, familiar with his other line of work, but the Rumpus reminded me he had a blog, when they promoted this incredibly brilliant thing that I don’t have any words to describe, besides incredibly and brilliant. And terrifying. And quivery-making. I don’t think quivery-making was a thing before, but it’s a thing now.

This is great writing, and it makes me quivery in a couple dozen ways. The sexy way, the about-to-cry way, the “tell-tale tingle down the spine” way that Vladimir Nabokov said was the sign of truly great art.