My story “Red Lizard Brigade” kicks off the special shared-universe dinosaur issue of Uncanny Magazine!
The issue was born from a conversation on Twitter a year ago, between a bunch of awesome SF/F/H writers – many but not all of them queer – geeking out about how awesome dinosaurs are…. and then the magnificent folks at Uncanny Magazine had decided to put together a special issue with a bunch of gnarly dinosaur stories all set in the same universe!
Here are some reviews of the story:
“Soviet scientists discover a way to reach through space and time. This technology brings dinosaurs tot he present day as weapons. The main characters are two soldiers in the Red Army trained to work with the animals. They become lovers, but come into conflict when one wishes to change how the dinosaurs are used. The result is treason and tragedy… a powerful tale about the tension between love and duty.” – Tangent
“… An emotionally devastating piece about loyalty and the desire for freedom, and the fear that comes from having survived something very difficult and not knowing where loyalty should be given.” – Quick Sip Reviews
“First, I loved this story’s setup and the worldbuilding… Second, this story is simply a well-crafted delight… the story is perfectly ordered, hooking readers with a brilliant setup, pausing briefly to flesh out the worldbuilding and character relationships, and then bringing it all together for a heart-wrenching and darkly gorgeous climax.” – The Skiffy and Fanty Show
Lastly, “Red Lizard Brigade” is an interesting examination of relationships, betrayal, loyalty, and love. There
Tor.com consistently publishes some of the most excellent short fiction, and I am so excited to finally have a story there!! Edited by Jonathan Strahan, “The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter,” is described by Tor.com as follows:
“A group of friends, a pair of lovers, and the tussle between love, addiction, and what comes next. Otto, a former addict, grateful and indebted to his lover Trevor, is faced with temptation and the threat of disaster, but he’s fighting it. Fighting it in a future where matter can be reprogrammed and anything could happen, good or bad.”
Perhaps most excitingly, Tor.com always includes an original illustration – mine is by Goñi Montes, and I’m in love with it:
It’s called “The Ways Out,” and it’s about a government agent tailing a ten-year-old skateboarder girl who has potentially dangerous psionic abilities.
Rocket Stack Rank said the end reveal is “delicious.”
Here’s a clip from the middle of the story:
Surveillance Clip S643/R57.D018 [File Uploaded] Human Agent Summary
The girl is good.
S1 is a fast learner, seeming to suck up skill through osmosis. When S2 does jump tricks, he has this slight upward tilt to his hands. Utterly idiosyncratic; no one else does this. But S1 does. S2’s eyebrows unite in perplexed happiness.
They are hard to track, now. They move fast from spot to spot. Like they are looking for someone, or several someones. Difficult to follow unobtrusively. They say little. Mic jumps yield nothing but background noise and skateboard wheels spinning. Cross reference of their geocache tracks to known routes of illegal activity among variant individuals shows minimal overlap.
There are no files on her mother. This is unusual enough to be a cause of some concern. Cooperation requests submitted to partner agencies in several allied nations tasked with tracking variant individuals.
The magnificent, crucial Uncanny Magazine has given me a column called #Resistance101, to talk about community organizing for science fiction & fantasy creators & consumers, and my first one is out now! Just another reason for you to support, subscribe, and spread the word about their excellence.
For starters, I wanted to keep it super simple, and give some easy & important protest tips I wish someone had told me when I first started going to a ton of actions. Here’s a teaser!
Bring water, and snacks. Don’t go overboard—you gotta carry all this stuff around, after all—but it’s good to have a Go Bag at the ready. Oreos are excellent because you can share.
Talk to people. Make friends. Possibly with Oreos! Protest is less about convincing enemies than about building power and relationships with friends, and bringing new people into the work.
Charge your devices before leaving. Bring an external battery if possible. Turn off your phone when the battery falls to 10 percent, so you save something for emergencies.
Check the weather beforehand. Prepare for temperature extremes.
Also! My so-called credentials:
I’ve been a community organizer for fifteen years. I’ve helped organize hundreds of direct actions, ranging from tame sidewalk rallies to occupations of government office building lobbies to tent cities on vacant bank-owned properties. I’ve gotten arrested in Central Park at a midnight protest; I’ve been illegally barred from public legislative hearings; I was detained by the Secret Service while protesting outside the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m not some badass fearless radical fuck-the-man kinda dude. I am the exact opposite. Abusive cop encounters as a kid scarred me for life. I started out just making signs for protests, because I like to draw. I was scared shitless the first time I stared down a line of police officers. But that only lasted a minute. Because there were a lot of us, and we were fighting something evil. That’s the first lesson: you don’t need to be brave on your own, because you will be brave together.
I’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….
The 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
- “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
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]:
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:
The 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.
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.
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.
And 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 said “It 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!
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.
This 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 Suicides” won 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:
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!!!
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:
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.
“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 email@example.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
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!
“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.
The August 2015 issue of Lightspeed Magazine contains my story “Ghosts of Home.”
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.
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.
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.
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::
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).
My short story “When Your Child Strays From God” was published today at Clarkesworld, one of the very best and toughest venues for science fiction these days. I’ve been submitting to them for years, and I’m so proud that this story found a home there.
It’s about a devout Christian mother who decides to hunt down her runaway teenage son by taking a drug that will allow her to enter a terrifying shared hallucination with him… and in the process learns all kinds of things about her son and herself and her husband that she didn’t really want to know.
It’s my first attempt to write a “funny” story, although of course I can’t stop myself from ALSO trying to punch you in the heart and make you cry. If I was successful… I AM SORRY.
This story owes a big debt to my comrades in Altered Fluid, many of whom gave me phenomenal critiques that made it a lot stronger: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Alyssa Wong, Paul Berger, Kris Dikeman, Richard Bowes, Lilah Wild, Matthew Kressel, Devin Poore, and Mercurio D. Rivera!!
388 Atlantic Avenue (ground floor)
Doors at 6:30PM, show starts at 7PM – but this one is gonna be packed, so, plan on getting there early.
Clear your calendars! Book passage to New York City! The chance to see Samuel Delany read is worth it. Don’t come because of me. I’m not even icing on the cake. I’m the cupcake wrapper – more annoying than anything else. I will, however, do my best to be an awesome cupcake wrapper. To that end I’ll be reading a special slimmed-down tweaked and maybe-even-slightly-edgier edit of my Nebula-nominated novelette “We Are the Cloud.”
388 Atlantic Avenue (ground floor)
Doors at 6:30PM
2014 was a bit of a crazy wonderful whirlwind for me, writing-wise. It was also incredibly difficult on the personal tip, with some ongoing struggles that are still taking a lot out of me, so to have some bright and shining moments in my writing life made a huge difference. I am so privileged to be part of the marvelous, magnificent community of science fiction/fantasy/horror writers and readers and editors and fanpeople.
I had five pieces of short fiction published in this year. FIVE!! I made some amazing friends, and got to spend extra time with old friends.
Also? Through some cosmic bookkeeping error, I WON THE SHIRLEY JACKSON AWARD!!!
Which brings me to… awards eligibility.
My novelette “We Are The Cloud” was published in Lightspeed in September, and it might be the piece of writing I’m most proud of. It got a bunch of great reviews (and one terrible homophobic one). Also available in an audio version! It is the thing I’m proudest of, so IF ONE WERE SO INCLINED TO VOTE FOR IT FOR ANY AWARD AT ALL, I wouldn’t try to stop you. If you’re a member of SFWA, you can nominate for the Nebulas here.
As for short stories, my award-eligible pieces for 2014 are:
- Kenneth: A User’s Manual (Strange Horizons)
- Allosaurus Burgers (Shimmer)
- Alloy Point (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
- Songs Like Freight Trains (Interzone) (not available online, but reviewed glowingly along with the rest of this excellent issue HERE)
In my unbiased opinion, they’re not bad.
I’m also eligible for the Campbell Award! It’s my second and final year of eligibility. My hero Usman Tanveer Malik even listed me among “excellent writers” who “have emerged on the SF/ Horror scene in the last two years,” and recommended “that you explore all their available stories before nominating your favorite candidate (s).” In fact, if I had to make a Dream Team Campbell Finalist List, it’d be Usman, Alyssa Wong, Carmen Maria Machado, Henry Lien, Lara Elena Donnelly, Lisa Bolekaja… and, uh… me! … and a bunch of other awesome writers I am sure I am forgetting about. AND I’M SORRY.
So… there’s that. So much great short SFFFH fiction got published in 2014, and I’m excited and honored to be in that mix. And I really appreciate anyone who thinks something of mine is award-worthy!
My new story “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” was published on World AIDS Day by Strange Horizons, and I’m so excited about this one… mostly because it has a whole bunch of original illustrations of mine! And some hypertext ancillary materials. Also by me.
You often hear the adage that good science fiction is about the present, even when it’s set in the future. And this story is an excellent example of that. The setting is clearly the future, near or far, it’s hard to tell, but the sorrow and longing and anger and memory trap illuminated so well in the words belongs firmly in the present. In this narrow band of time.
Mixing text and illustrations to subtle and devastating effect, Sam J. Miller‘s “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” offers a warning and guidelines for a sort of artificial man, and in so doing offers a different sort of warning and guidelines for living on where others have not. Short and interspersed with sketchy illustrations of Kenneth, a sort of idealized man from the height of gay club culture, the manual offers users tips to properly use Kenneth and avoid harm. The story is cleverly layered, a statement issued in response to complaints about the model, a business memo but also a sort of manifesto from the designer, from the man responsible for creating Kenneth out of his own need to capture something beautiful from the past. For all his reaching, though, the author of the manual ends his guide with the realization that what Kenneth does is not offer comfort, exactly, or release, but rather requires the user to face the stark realities of life. Concise and wrenching, the story uses its form to further its message, to amazing results.
“Allosaurus Burgers,” a modern science fiction story by Sam J. Miller, tells the story of Matt, a young boy who lives near a farm where a real allosaurus is discovered. Living alone with his mother, a tall woman who works in a slaughterhouse, Matt’s view of the world is wrapped up in his mother’s opinions and prejudices. She towers over him like a god, and yet when he goes to see the allosaurus he comes face to face with something even larger. When his mother loses control after dealing with Matt’s father, it is up to Matt to try and protect her, and in so doing he finally sees her as a person, as capable of error. Weaving a complex family life without succumbing to cliche or simplification, the story shows the characters in all their richness, and handles a pivotal moment in a child’s life with art and power.”
“…Reading this story right after the last one highlighted some (unintentional) synchonicities between the stories. They’re both about small communities filled with people and families who have known each other since forever, a fact that drives the character’s motivations more than they might know. Both stories feature a beast that disrupts the normal course of life, though in this one the disruption is far more evident, and more parable-tastic. And once again I love the voice in this one. Sam J Miller’s name should be familiar to fans of the dark fantastic since he recently won a Shirley Jackson Award for this story.“
“Following is another excellent story. “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” by Sam J. Miller strongly stands out with a unique format that flows effortlessly, and memorable young adult characters, outstanding speculative fiction elements, gay theme, and a plot focused on friendship, bullying, revenge and betrayal.”
“My favourite story for July – and one of my favourites this year – was “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides by Sam J. Miller, from Nightmare Magazine. The story won a Shirley Jackson Award, and I can see why. It’s about Jared, a gay teenager, who has been viciously bullied by six boys at school. However, he discovers that he has a unique ability that he can use to take revenge, with the help of his best friend Anchal. What makes the story particularly interesting is that the whole thing is told in a list of 57 items – the reasons for the Slate Quarry suicides. It builds quite slowly, but the gruesome ending is just superb.”
““57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” by Sam J. Miller is another strong piece, though much more on the “horror” end of things—as, frankly, many of the stories in this volume are. (And the Wilde Stories collections also tend to be, across the years.) It’s a list-story, which I tend to be a little iffy about as a form, but it works here reasonably well. The protagonist is simultaneously sympathetic and terrible, and the ending of the narrative is fairly brutal; it wasn’t entirely what I expected, but it did fit the piece. The title also gains a disturbing resonance in its implications about the deaths: that people think that it was suicide, when it was anything but.”
I wrote this story during week five of Clarion 2012. It benefited immensely from the insights and critiques of my Brother and Sister Robots, as well as anchor team extraordinaire Holly Black and Cassandra Clare…. and after that it made the rounds for a little while, racking up rejections and getting some good notes from editors that helped me make it extra awesome. Also my mom and dad and sister and husband read it. And they made it awesome too.
I’m happy this one is out in the world. Mostly because I love dinosaurs. But also because I really like this story.
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.
After twelve years of publishing crucial fiction and poetry from some of the most exciting names in science fiction & fantasy, the seminal magazine Electric Velocipede will cease publication upon the release of its 27th issue.
Join NYC-based fans for an event that’s equal parts release party and memorial service, with current and past contributors to the journal reading and reminiscing and rhapsodizing and eulogizing. Also, there will be candy.
Friday, February 28th, at 7PM
Bluestockings Books (172 Allen Street, on the Lower East Side – F/V to 2nd Avenue),
Hosted by Issue #27 contributors Nancy Hightower & Sam J. Miller
Did we mention candy?
With readings and remembrances from the following EV contributors:
Richard Bowes has published six novels, four short story collections and seventy stories. He has won two World Fantasy Awards, an International Horror Guild and a Million Writer Award. 2013 was a busy year: Lethe Press published a new Bowes novel Dust Devil on a Quiet Street and republished his 1999 Lambda Award Winning Minions of the Moon. Also out this year is an illustrated book of modern fairy tales, The Queen, the Cambion and Seven Others from Aqueduct and If Angels Fight a career spanning story collection from Fairwood.
Nancy Hightower’s short fiction and poetry has been published in Strange Horizons, Word Riot, storySouth, Gargoyle, Electric Velocipede, Prick of the Spindle, and Bourbon Penn, among others. Her debut novel Elementarí Rising came out with Pink Narcissus Press in 2013.
Robert J. Howe has published short fiction in Electric Velocipede, Salon.com, Intergalactic Medicine Show, the magazines Analog, Black Gate, Pulphouse, and Weird Tales; the anthologies Happily Ever After and Newer York, and elsewhere. Howe is the editor, with John Ordover, of the anthology Coney Island Wonder Stories.Howe is a graduate of the journalism program at Brooklyn College, and the Clarion Writer’s Workshop at Michigan State University. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York, and works in higher education communications.
Brooklyn born and bred (with the accent to prove it), Barbara Krasnoff has sold over 25 short stories to a variety of publications. Her work can be found in the anthologies Memories and Visions, Such A Pretty Face, Descended From Darkness, Clockwork Phoenix 2, Broken Time, Subversion, Fat Girl in a Strange Land, and Menial. Her work has also appeared in Amazing Stories, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Descant, Weird Tales, Sybil’s Garage, Escape Velocity, Behind the Wainscot, Doorways, Apex, Electric Velocipede, Space and Time, Crossed Genres, Atomic Avarice and Cosmos. Most recently, her story “The History of Soul 2065” appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 4, “Under the Bay Court Tree” will be in an upcoming issue of Space and Time, and “Symbiosis” will be in Crossed Genres in early 2014. Barbara is also the author of a YA non-fiction book, Robots: Reel to Real, and is currently Sr. Reviews Editor for tech publication Computerworld. She is a member of the NYC writers group Tabula Rasa, and lives in (you guessed it) Brooklyn, NY, with her partner Jim Freund.
Matthew Kressel’s fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld Magazine, io9.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, Electric Velocipede, Apex Magazine, and the anthologies Launch Pad, Naked City, After,The People of the Book, and The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, as well as other markets. He published and edited the speculative fiction magazine Sybil’s Garage, and in 2010 was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in the category of Special Award Non-Professional for his work. He also published Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology in 2009. He is the co-host of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in Manhattan alongside Ellen Datlow. And he is a long-time member of the Altered Fluid writing group. His website is www.matthewkressel.net.
Sam J. Miller is a writer and a community organizer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nightmare Magazine, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, The Minnesota Review, The Rumpus, and many more. He is the co-editor of Horror After 9/11, a critical anthology published by the University of Texas Press and included in the “Brilliant/Lowbrow” quadrant of the famedNew York Magazine Approval Matrix. Visit him at www.samjmiller.com
Mercurio D. Rivera’s short fiction has appeared in a variety of venues, including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Interzone, Nature, Black Static, Solaris Rising 2, Year’s Best SF 17, Unplugged: The Web’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages. He has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and is a winner of Interzone’s annual readers’ poll. His collection Across the Event Horizon has been called “weird and wonderful,” with “dizzying switchbacks,” “a revelation” with “twists followed by more twists heightening a powerful sense of alienation and menace.” He is a born and bred Bronxite who loves playing paddleball on weekends.
William Shunn began his professional software development career at WordPerfect in 1991, where he wrote 80×86 assembly language code and helped kill the DOS version of that venerable word processor. He still uses WordPerfect for most of his prose writing, which includes more than thirty works of short fiction. His stories have appeared everywhere from Asimov’s to Salon, and have been shortlisted for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Five of those stories appeared in Electric Velocipede, including one under the nom de plume Perry Slaughter. Spilt Milk Press also published his chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century in 2007. For three years, Bill hosted Chicago’s eclectic monthly Tuesday Funk reading series. He now lives in New York City again, with his wife Laura Chavoen and their soft-coated wheaten terrier Ella the Wonder Dog.
Jonathan Wood is an Englishman in New York.There’s a story in there involving falling in love and flunking out of med school, but in the end it all worked out all right, and, quite frankly, the medical community is far better off without him, so we won’t go into it here.Electric Velocipede published the first short story he ever had accepted. More recently his debut novel, No Hero was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a funny, dark, rip-roaring adventure with a lot of heart, highly recommended for urban fantasy and light science fiction readers alike,” and Barnes and Noble listed it has one of the 20 best paranormal fantasies of the past decade.
I’m super-excited to announce that I’ve got two short stories coming out in the near future!
My story “Sabi, Wabi, Aware, Yugen” will be published by Daily Science Fiction on December 6th. If you’re not already a subscriber to Daily Science Fiction, you should really consider doing so. A free excellent short story in your inbox EVERY DAY? Including mine???!? Go here to register, and if you do it before December 6th you’ll wake up to my story.
In addition, my story “The Beasts We Want to Be” will be included in Electric Velocipede #27. This is an incredible honor, the more so because it was recently announced that this will be the last issue of this important magazine. There’s no release date yet, but stay tuned to their website – and this one! – because Electric Velocipede is going to make a hell of an exit.
I’m in San Diego for the 2012 Clarion Writers Workshop, which is an amazing experience on dozens of levels. I had forgotten how much I love a good university library, what with the smell of books and the quiet of it.
And then, what do I find, in the library catalog, but myself??
Go tell it on the mountain: the UCSD library has the anthology I co-edited, Horror After 9/11!!
… and what’s even more exciting, is it’s checked out! Meaning someone actually wanted to read it!!
Or destroy it. But I’ll take whatever attention we can get.
My review of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times, the crucial new book by James Tracy and Amy Sonnie, is in the new issue of the Indypendent.
“One of the things that’s so exciting about this book is that it comes at a time when the left has largely ceded the white working class to the right. Many of the activists profiled in this book believe that the failure of the white left to build power with working-class whites was a “fatal flaw” that could have changed the course of American history. The right has spent the past 30 years courting the rural working class on issues of individual rights, security and family values, all while building a base that has allowed them to shift the conversation in catastrophic ways. We make a mistake in believing that the Tea Party speaks for all poor whites — but that’s why we need Hillbilly Nationalists so badly. This book digs up a long and vibrant history of radical working-class resistance that we can still tap into if we understand it better.”
The new issue of West Branch is out, and it contains my short story “The Plot to Assassinate Oprah.” I’m proud of this one. It’s one of the messier and more ambitious things I’ve done.
Sometimes, when I’m writing a story and it’s just me alone in my head, I lose track of what a story will be when it’s out there in the world. I’m so focused on “going there” that I block out all my internal censors (the little old ghost aunts who read over my shoulder), which is good, but which means I sometimes get… rough. It wasn’t until I saw the galleys on this story that I thought “Holy Crap! This story is messed up!” Not so much for the titular plot, which is pretty tame as assassination plots go, as for some rough gay sex stuff that the teen protagonist obsesses over.
You should totally hit up West Branch and buy the issue.
I hope you like it.
On Saturday, November 12th, at Bluestockings Bookstore in New York City, co-editors Sam J Miller and Aviva Briefel will host the release party for the new anthology “Horror After 9/11” (University of Texas Press).
- Readings from the book!
- Scathing political critiques of stupid movies!
- Q & A – all your horror movie questions answered!
- Leftover Halloween Candy!
Saturday, November 12 · 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Bluestockings Bookstore, Café, & Activist Center
172 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002 (212) 777-6028
Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want any further information.
Horror films have exploded in popularity since September 11, 2001. Why did horror become so popular in the wake of events so horrific that many pundits initially predicted the death of the genre? And what do our horror films say about us?
Co-editors and contributors to the new anthology Horror after 9/11 (University of Texas Press) will take part in a panel discussion and conversation with the audience about horror films, the War on Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, immigration, and LGBT liberation, and more.
Aviva Briefel is Associate Professor of English at Bowdoin College. She is the author of The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century.
Sam J. Miller is a writer, community organizer, and independent scholar. His work has been published in journals such as The Minnesota Review, Fiction International, Washington Square, Gargoyle, and The Rumpus.
Last night I had a fabulous reading with Alexander Chee and Lee Houck. They’re both such amazingly talented writers, and it was a joy and honor to be reading some gay shit with them (the title of this post comes from the excerpt Lee read; it’s in his BOOK, the one you should go buy) If you’re on Facebook, you can click HERE for the full photo album from last night.
I read a truncated version of my story “The Last Sleepover,” which was published in the latest issue of Gargoyle. Here’s a teaser… you can buy the whole issue HERE.
The Last Sleepover
by Sam J. Miller
By the time I got to Hettie’s house, most of the blood in the seat of my briefs had dried. My watch said midnight. I crouched on her porch, hands in pockets, ear against the door. A pane of ribbed glass rang alongside it, so you could see inside but only make out light and shapes.
“Temperatures will continue to fall as the storm moves east,” said Hettie’s television. “Record snowfall tonight, so plan on staying home tomorrow. And don’t venture out unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Snow covered me. I rang the doorbell and the weather man went dead. Soon Hettie came towards the door, ghostlike, a bright glob.
“Hello?” Fear smeared her voice.
“Hettie, it’s me,” I said. “Shane. Timmy’s friend?”
No one makes dolls that look like old ladies. Babies and toddlers and buxom Barbie businesswomen, but never the aged. Yet the woman who opened the door was a doll—a tenth the size of the Hettie I remembered. Could Alzheimer’s erase body mass along with brain function? Cold wind hit her face, and she flinched. “Hello,” she said, and smiled. “What an ugly night!”
“Can I come in?” I asked. “Timmy’s still at work. He’ll be along soon.”
“Of course,” she said, and reached out to touch my shoulder. Maybe to make sure I was solid. Coming to her door at midnight and covered in snow, weeping, hooded, my face bright red from windburn and weeping, scarecrow skinny, I could have been the Angel of Death. I’d never have let me in.
Hettie shut the door behind me. Her home still had the scent of onions frying in butter, like ten thousand pots of goulash across fifty years, but that smell had grown faint. Pine-Sol and baby powder and shit held sway. I sat down on the bottom step of the staircase leading to the second floor. I’d never realized what a miracle it was, that human beings can build homes that hold heat. I’d never realized how hostile the world really was, how those pretty twinkling stars can smirk at your agony. My mouth was full of blood. My throat ached from running. I tried to take a deep breath and collapsed into coughing.
“Are you okay, honey?” she asked from the couch.
“Sure am. I just talked to Timmy. He’s working late at McDonald’s. He said he’ll be home in a couple hours.”
“Okay,” she said. Her head nodded gratefully. People with Alzheimer’s are constantly confused by new information. They’ll believe whatever you tell them. “Why don’t you wait here for him?”
“I think I will,” I said. “Do you mind if I go upstairs and freshen up?”
“Go right ahead,” she said.
She listened to me climb the stairs, then turned the TV back on.
Hettie’s husband was three months dead. Her Alzheimer’s was so advanced she really should have been in a home somewhere, but no one in her family seemed to be in a hurry to come make all the arrangements. They lived in other cities; they had problems of their own. So Hettie was held in limbo, haunting her own house, kept from complete collapse by a half-assed home health attendant. She’d live like that until a stroke or a tumble down the stairs took away her last shred of autonomy. Timmy lived in Providence, or possibly New Haven, and I hadn’t talked to him in months.
You have proof that Babe Ruth was Black.
And a bunch of vicious goons, possibly hired by the Yankees, are hunting you down and trying to kill you before you can make this information public.
And it’s 1948, so you can’t just post this proof to your blog or Facebook page. And you’re a sex worker, so no one takes you seriously. And you were a little bit in love with Babe, who has been dead for less than a week.
That’s the premise in my new story, “Black Babe,” which will be published in the new issue of Slice magazine. Back when they sent me my acceptance notice, I blogged about it – this story had been rejected by 65 literary journals! It’s also one of the ones I’m proudest of, which is probably why I had the fortitude to keep on sending it out so many times.
The release event is September 30th, in Manhattan. Come hear me attempt to condense this big story into five glorious minutes!
The Center for Fiction
17 East 47th St. in NYC
4/5/6/7/S train to 42nd Street
This morning L Magazine published my short story “Men Kill Things.”
I’m really happy with it – very short, but hopefully carries some weight…
Ben doesn’t scream or cry or call for his mother when nightmares wake him up. He wails, a sad train whistle of a sound, something he’s trying hard to keep secret. Pipes clanging; animals moving through fallen leaves; a car door slamming down the road… he handles his fear on his own. He’ll only cry when Beth or I arrive at his bedside, and by then it’s more shame than fear.
“I’ll get him,” I say, when the sound finally stirs Beth from her sleep. I’ve been listening for fifteen minutes.
The hall is dark, its ceiling low. Every night I stand here. Tiptoeing through the house, hoping to tire myself out, I stop to stand still in utter blackness and listen to the wind. Goose bumps prickle my arms, tighten my testicles. The boiler’s broke, demanding eight hundred dollars we don’t have. Space heaters help out in the bedrooms, but the hallway’s just four walls to keep the wind off. Every night I listen, waiting for when the wind will pull the walls down.
“Hey,” I say, pushing open the door, “hey little man. Everything okay in here?” I leave the light off. Sometimes he won’t sob if he can’t be seen.”
The new issue of Gargoyle is out, and it contains my short story “The Last Sleepover.”
Along with about a billion other stories and poems! Seriously, the thing is massive, and the overall quality level is very high. If you’re gonna buy a random issue of a random literary journal, there’s a good bang for your buck if you go ahead and get this one.
Here’s the opener (and by the way – in copy-and-pasting this in, I noticed a typo in the very first paragraph. dammit!):
“By the time I got to Hettie’s house, most of the blood in the seat of my briefs had dried. My watch said midnight. I crouched on her porch, hands in pockets, ear against the door. A pane of ribbed glass ra alongside it, so you could see inside but only make out light and shapes.
“Temperatures will continue to fall as the storm moves east,” said Hettie’s television. “Record snowfall tonight, so plan on staying home tomorrow. And don’t venture out unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Snow covered me. I rang the doorbell and the weather man went dead. Soon Hettie came towards the door, ghostlike, a bright glob.
“Hello?” Fear smeared her voice.
“Hettie, it’s me,” I said. “Shane. Timmy’s friend?”
No one makes dolls that look like old ladies. Babies and toddlers and buxom Barbie businesswomen, but never the aged. Yet the woman who opened the door was a doll—a tenth the size of the Hettie I remembered. Could Alzheimer’s erase body mass along with brain function? Cold wind hit her face, and she flinched.
The new issue of flashquake is out, complete with a short-short story of mine! Read “Midnight Psychology” at:
“Me and Steve were drunk. Sober, we’d never listen to a show like that. Some late-night thing where women call in to talk out feelings. I’d been flipping through the channels and everything was country music and that Jesus guy with the high voice, and after a while my arm got tired and I settled back into the seat. Midnight Psychology came at us like the snow against the windshield, something mere drunk mortals like me and Steve could not hope to tamper with. And anyway the lady had a sexy voice.”
My manuscript “Haunting Your House” was on the shortlist for the first Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize.
Click here for the complete details, including lots of info on the winning collection, which sounds excellent, and which, in the spirit of being a good sport, I will buy…
Yep, that’s right… somebody figured that my name and my thoughts would induce somebody to buy something! It’s very exciting… Now I just gotta figure out how to put it on a resume/CV…