I am super honored to have been part of the BBC4 radio documentary “Daughters of the North,” which looks at the North Pole through the lens of colonialism, imperialism, romanticization & empowerment.
I discuss my novel BLACKFISH CITY, which is set in the Arctic, as well as the power of storytelling to help us rethink our relationship to the world and shift the boundaries of what’s possible.
Also… I might be *slightly* losing my mind because I am a huge huge fan of the Inuk musician and author Tanya Tagaq, who is also interviewed in the documentary.
You can listen here, through the end of April 2021. Here are the full details:
Artist and poet Himali Singh Soin explores the North Pole as a mythologised space in literature.
Reading novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Captain of the Pole Star at school in India, the North Pole was portrayed to her as a blank, white, mysterious and uninhabited place. It was only later, travelling to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago and reading stories that placed the Arctic outside of the colonial imagination, that Himali started to challenge these images.
In conversation with her father – the explorer and responsible tourism advocate Mandip Singh Soin – Himali discusses the consequences of mythologising this huge region of different lands and cultures at the top of the world. How has the North Pole of the literary imagination influenced how people behave in and towards the Arctic and its peoples?
Drawing a line from the Ancients, through Margaret Cavendish’s 17th century novel The Blazing World, to contemporary literature, she considers how the North Pole holds a multitude of powerful stories that affect everyone in our entangled world.
Featuring Michael Bravo from the Scott Polar Research Institute and Department of Geography, Cambridge; Professor Adriana Craciun, Boston University; and authors Tanya Tagaq and Sam J. Miller.
Readings by Deborah Shorinde
Science historian: Alexis Rider
Excerpt(s) from Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq, Copyright © 2018
Excerpts of music by David Soin Tappeser, Score for string quartet, ‘we are opposite like that’, a film by Himali Singh Soin, 2019
Photo credit: we are opposite like that, 2017-2022. Courtesy of Himali Singh Soin.
Produced by Andrea Rangecroft
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
The new issue of Apex Magazine is out, and I am excited to reveal that it contains my new short story “A Love That Burns Hot Enough to Last: Deleted Scenes from a Documentary.”
As the title may tip you off, this piece is inspired by Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – my favorite song of all time.
It’s also about the eerie supernatural connection between musician and listener. There’s a lot of give in that bond, but a lot of take, too. What might a rock star singer soak up, basking in the love and adoration of millions of fans, and what are the costs of taking in so much of the need and hunger of strangers?
This is the third installment in my pentaptych of stories inspired by or based on my five favorite songs – joining “It Was Saturday Night, I Guess That Makes It Alright” (published in A People’s Future of the United States; based on Prince’s “Little Red Corvette”), and “Let All The Children Boogie” (published by Tor.com, based on David Bowie’s “Starman”).
I won’t spoil what songs the final two stories in the series are about, but I can tell you that the artists are Madonna and The Clash.
I am insanely proud to have written the cover story for the January 2021 issue (“the Animal Issue”) of Vogue Italia. It launches a partnership between the magazine and WWF Italia, “with the aim of spreading greater awareness on the conservation of nature, habitats and endangered species through the print and digital channels of Vogue Italia.”
And it features seven collectible covers, all centering animals:
“This year we wanted animals to take over our physical and digital space,” explains editor-in-chief Emanuele Farneti, “to force us to draw attention, after the months spent at home, to the natural dimension, to the ‘environmental emergency that the tragedy of the pandemic has certainly not made less urgent, and about what the year we have just left behind taught us: very trivially, that the world does not revolve around men.”
The story may be short, but it is the animal uprising story of my dreams!!
[You can read the whole thing in English, here]
“We are the 99.99%. You humans only account for 0.01% of all life forms on earth, and yet you act as if you are the only ones. You destroy what nature has made, to exploit it for your own personal needs.”
“Noi siamo il 99,99%. Voi soltanto lo 0,01% di tutte le forme viventi che abitano la Terra, e ciò nonostante vi comportate come se foste gli unici. Distruggete ciò che la natura ha creato, lo sfruttate per le vostre necessità personali.”
This crazy-good review has got me completely verklempt. I could totally just quote the whole thing here because there’s so much awesome stuff about this crazy haunted mess of a book, but I’ll keep it brief and encourage you to go read the whole thing!!
“The Blade Between is a book about broken people. The creepy atmosphere and ghosts make it horror, but the drug abuse, evictions, cheating, and destroyed lives make it noir. Also, Miller’s writing and vivid imagery, especially when describing dreams, make it poetry. . . . Miller pulls readers into a universe where the banality of everyday life in a small town and the extraordinary weirdness of the supernatural collide. . . . The Blade Between is more than a dystopian sci-fi thriller with a dash of poetry; it’s an explosive narrative about a small town caught between the decaying ghosts of the past, the shattered dreams and mediocre lives of its residents, and the monster of gentrification that threatens to erase it all under shiny new buildings and fancy coffee shops. That Miller manages to discuss all three while also exploring the interstitial spaces between homosexuality, technology, and class privilege and resentment is a testament to his storytelling skills, and a powerful reason to read this haunting tale.”“‘The Blade Between’ Walks the Boundary of Horror and Noir.”
On Tuesday, December 1st, my fourth novel THE BLADE BETWEEN was released.
It’s a twisted little horror thriller about gentrification, ghosts, hate, homophobia, and the complex meaning of home. Plus whales!
One reviewer even called it “James Baldwin meets Stephen King,” and honestly it’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten.
Launching a book under lockdown, in a wild and weird horror movie of a year like 2020, feels… wrong? Bizarre? But I’m excited to be telling tough stories about history and resistance in a time when resistance feels more important than ever.
Here’s some more nice stuff people had to say:
“Supernatural and uncomfortably human forces threaten to rip a failing town apart…. An unsettling and visceral journey: powerful, twisted, and grim but ultimately uplifting.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The Blade Between is as addictive and brutal as it is smart and challenging. Miller unflinchingly confronts the sins of our past and present. The horrors here are rooted in there being no easy answers despite our individual and collective souls being ultimately at stake. Plus whales!” – Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World and Survivor Song
“[A] gripping mashup of psychological suspense and horror….The novel lifts off toward an exciting conclusion. Insightful social commentary is a bonus. Thriller fans will welcome Miller as a fresh new voice.” – Publishers Weekly
“Miller takes on cosmic horror with chillingly realistic results…. Filled with intense dread and unease…. This is a great example of how a century-old subgenre can still speak directly to today’s readers.” – Library Journal
“Miller’s sprawling novel encapsulates the complex web of feelings brought on by witnessing the destruction of a town that made adolescence hell for a gay or trans teen…. Raw and volatile…. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a queer-themed, sea salt–laced dark fantasy.” – Booklist (starred review)
“The book is full of moments of slowly rising dread that end in shocking revelations, all of them building to a nightmarish town festival where the growing horror finally reveals its true face and intent.” – Nightmare Magazine
I am super proud and profoundly humbled to have served as the judge for the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.
And after many months of reading incredible books and agonizing over the decision I had to make, I am delighted to join the Institute staff in congratulating the winners!
I am so grateful to the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College for this incredible opportunity – and to Ted and Cadwell for their incredible work.
“Few science fiction storylines are more overused than tales of alien first contact and invasion, which makes Cadwell Turnbull’s achievement in The Lesson all the more astonishing,” said Miller. “He’s managed to make it fresh and alive and painfully relevant for a moment where our histories of colonization and exploitation are poised to teach us all some terrible lessons, and we should all be paying attention. It’s the kind of debut that makes me so excited for the future of speculative fiction.”
“Ted Chiang is simply the greatest living science fiction writer, and each new story of his is cause for celebration. It’s been 17 years since his last collection, and Exhalation is exactly the kind of brain-exploding, superhuman, profoundly human work we need right now. Far and away the best speculative book of the year, and probably the decade. Ted’s stories rewrite the rules of the world and widen the scope of our dreams, and we are all in his debt,” said Miller.
Check out the full press release here.
Honestly every one of the nominated books could plausibly have been a winner, and every one of them will reward your time… and make you feel a hell of a lot better about how fucked up our world is. I refuse to believe the species that produced books like these is past saving. I took to Twitter to shout them all out individually:
I’ve been a huge fan of MIT’s “Twelve Tomorrows” anthology series since first stumbling upon it at the newsstand at Penn Station in 2013. On an annual basis, they pull together brilliant stories from the most exciting science fiction writers.
So I was ecstatic when guest editor Sheila Williams solicited a story for me for this year’s edition – the first one with a theme: Entanglements.
And now you can click here to buy your copy today, and read my story “The Nation of the Sick” (which, yeah, that title was a lot less unsettling in the pre-pandemic days when I wrote the story) – alongside work by tons of my faves, including Nancy Kress, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal, James Patrick Kelly, Annalee Newitz, Cadwell Turnbull, and more!!
In an interview with Clarkesworld Magazine, when editor Sheila Williams was asked what story challenges the reader the most, she said:
“Sam J. Miller’s “The Nation of the Sick” may be the most challenging. There are a million ideas coming at the reader. As we are getting our mind around iterative modeling and floating fungitecture, our understanding of two brothers’ complex relationship also becomes clearer. The epistolary storytelling technique eventually yields the entire picture, but getting there is a great ride.”
“For me, the star of the book is Sam J. Miller’s “The Nation of the Sick.” A programmer is elevated by the success of his partnership with a visionary. He must contend with his brother’s addiction, sort through his own relationship to the past, and come to terms with his place in the world. But it’s not the “plot” which shines; rather, it’s Miller’s sense of character, of voice, and of narrative structure that make this piece something truly special. This is a story that should be entered into the canon of important literature.”
My short story “Shucked,” originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, has been chosen for inclusion in THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, an anthology edited by Richard Horton.
The whole table of contents is incredible, and packed with some of my very favorite short fiction writers. I’m super honored that my weird little story found a second home here!
Anthology drops in December, from Prime Books. Stay tuned for pre-order details…
My new novel THE BLADE BETWEEN just got its first trade review, a lovely one from Publishers Weekly, which says in part:
“[A] gripping mashup of psychological suspense and horror….The novel lifts off toward an exciting conclusion. Insightful social commentary is a bonus. Thriller fans will welcome Miller as a fresh new voice.”
The world is a garbage fire, and I’ve felt weird celebrating any personal accomplishments while millions are suffering and dying from a global pandemic and tens of millions have lost their jobs and and police keep murdering Black people with complete impunity.
But my community of brilliant powerful writer friends and heroes has been getting me through it, with their books and stories and tweets that remind me hope is as powerful as rage and the future belongs to us, and in that spirit I am excited to celebrate all the excellence included on the Locus Awards ballot for 2020… And the fact that my novel DESTROY ALL MONSTERS has been nominated in the Best Young Adult Novel category just makes that celebration of community all the sweeter.
I wrote the book because I wanted to help young people find the toolkit I didn’t get until I was much older – how to fight the monsters that surround us, the ones that run the world or are in positions of power or respect.
We can fight. We will win.
In that spirit, I’m proud that the book is in such awesome company on this list, which includes so many fantastic books and stories by people I adore, who are making the genre and the world a better place.
GO READ THEM ALL.
My fourth novel The Blade Between will come out in December of 2020 – it’s a supernatural thriller about revenge and gentrification and forbidden gay love… with ghosts. And whales.
And now, it has a cover!!!
My publisher says:
“From Nebula Award winner Sam J. Miller comes a frightening and uncanny ghost story about a rapidly changing city in upstate New York and the mysterious forces that threaten it.“
December is a long way away, but you can click here to pre-order it from the indie bookstore or behemoth of your choice!!
And in the meantime…. check out this gorgeous cover:
Pretty excited to share that I am the judge for this year’s Neukom Institute Literary Award! Having been a nominee for this prestigious prize in the past, it’s fantastic to now be part of the process.
I’m also a little bit terrified. Because so many awesome books came out last year! HOW DOES ONE CHOOSE.
Here’s the full press release:
HANOVER, N.H – March 30, 2020 – Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller has been announced as the judge for the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards. The awards are presented annually at Dartmouth College to honor and support works in speculative fiction.
Miller is the author of the Nebula-winning The Art of Starving. Miller’s second novel Blackfish City—a shortlist selection of the 2019 Neukom Awards—tells the story of life set in a floating Arctic city where rising seas have caused dramatic geopolitical changes. His most recent book, Destroy All Monsters, was published in 2019.
“The imagined futures of some of the best speculative fiction have always felt uncomfortably close,” said Dan Rockmore, director of Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science and creator of the award program. “We are excited to have Sam Miller, one of the most imaginative writers of our day, guide us through this year’s awards under circumstances that seem like they were pulled from the pages of a spec fic book.”
The Neukom awards program presents prizes in two book categories: one for a debut author, and another in an open author category. There is also a separate award for playwriting. Miller will serve as a judge for the book awards.
“We’re living in weird and terrifying times that rival the best speculative fiction in their outlandishness,” said Miller, a recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award. “My peers and heroes in the genre community are rising to the challenge by writing magnificent books that not only capture the true horror of how we’re destroying the world, but the hope and power we have to save it. We’ve seen some astonishing novels come out in the past year, and I’m excited to help celebrate some of them as part of the Neukom Awards.”
Each Neukom award comes with a $5,000 honorarium given as a part of Dartmouth programming. The literary awards will be presented during a panel scheduled for fall of 2020. The playwriting award also includes the opportunity to develop and perform the script, first as a part of the summer VoxFest program and then later with the local Northern Stage theatre group.
The short list of books for this year’s awards will be made public in May. The list will be decided by Rockmore, along with Dartmouth colleagues Eric Schaller, Tarek El-Ariss, and Peter Orner, as well as The Santa Fe Institute’s Jessica Flack. The awards will be announced in June.
Additional information on the awards may be found on the Neukom Institute website at: https://sites.dartmouth.edu/neukominstitutelitawards/
What gay boy doesn’t secretly dream of seeing himself in the pages of Italian Vogue? Any Vogue, really. Even if you’re as sartorially-challenged as me, it’s impossible not to look with awe and fascination at the world of fashion – an industry where women and queer people reign supreme – and Vogue is the ultimate arbiter of style.
So imagine my surprise when they reached out to me for a short story! Magnificent culture editor Federico Chiara included four “fresh takes on classic sci-fi,” riffing on the classic Space-Race-era sci-fi aesthetics.
My short story “Luna Fashion Week 2057” is in the January 2020 edition of L’Uomo Vogue Italia – the Utopia Issue.
“Visions of a better world – even a perfect world – demand visionaries to conceive them,” says the issue brief. “L’Uomo’s cast of key creatives in culture and fashion interrogate the present to help shape a positive future.”
Which is my favorite fictional place.
The whole issue is fantastic – there’s also a brilliant piece by my hero Ken Liu – so go see if it’s on sale at a news stand or a magazine shop near you!
In November, I traveled to Italy for the release of Blackfish City in Italian translation, published by the fabulous Zona42 as La città dell’orca !!
We stayed in my beloved Venice, and our visit happened to coincide with the worst flooding that city has experienced in sixty years. It was sobering and intense to be promoting a book about rising sea levels at the same time as one of my favorite places on the planet is facing an existential threat from record-breaking flooding.
As part of the massive literary festival Book City Milano, we had a release event at the awesome Covo della Ladra bookstore in Milan, where I was in conversation with my editor Giorgio Raffaelli and my translator Chiara Reali. The crowd was huge and attentive, and talking to these two brilliant folks was a real pleasure and privilege.
There’s a great write-up of the event over at Zona42’s website – it’s in Italian, but if Google Translate is to be believed, they say nice things about me!
We already knew that Sam J. Miller was a great author, but we were really pleased to discover a prepared, helpful, very kind person, who made himself available to Zone 42 for a whole afternoon. First the interview with Angela Bernardoni that preceded the presentation (you can read it on Stay Nerd ). Then the meeting at Covo della Ladra , which began with the parallel reading of English / Italian of a chapter of the novel (and we owe it an infinite thanks to Chiara Reali , as usual , that if it didn’t exist we would have to invent it!), Continued with the discussion on the many themes and suggestions that enrich the city of orca and culminated in an exchange of questions and answers with the public. Sam J. Miller was as precise, as enlightening, politically explicit and fun.
In 2012, I attended the Clarion Science Fiction Fantasy Writers Workshop.
It changed my life. It made me the writer I am today.
And when I left, I fell into a crippling depression that lasted months.
Because they were the six most magical weeks of my life. I had the chance to study with six of the best writers in the science fiction and fantasy genre – Jeffrey Ford, Delia Sherman, Ted Chiang, Walter Jon Williams, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black – to say nothing of my seventeen incredible classmates, with whom I was bonded for life into a super-brood of awesome writerly power and support.
After that, even the happiest of home-and-work lives feels a little smaller. But – on top of all the awesome craft I learned there – my experience at Clarion made me that much more motivated to find a way into the awesome SFF community I’d had a small taste of at the workshop.
So now, I’m completely verklempt to share that I’ll be part of the 2020 faculty at Clarion UCSD. Alongside some of the most magnificent writers in the game! Geoffrey Ryman, Larissa Lai, Anjali Sachdeva, Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond!
Seriously, this has been a dream of mine ever since I graduated, and I am over the moon to able to support an awesome cadre of 18 great writers who are figuring out how to tell the stories that will change the world.
If you’re a writer of science fiction or fantasy or horror, and you’ve been looking to take your craft to the next level, Clarion is one way to do it, and I hope you’ll consider applying when applications open in December!!
The latest issue of Clarkesworld contains my new short story, “Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart.” It’s a sort of spiritual predecessor to my story “Things With Beards” – another attempt to queer classic monster movies.
What if King Kong was real? What if we found something that magnificent – and captured it – and exploited it – and destroyed it? How would humanity change, after something like that?
The story takes place on September 1st, 1939, in a New York City forever changed by Kong’s climb and fall in 1933. A closeted gay cab driver happens to pick up Ann Darrow, the woman Kong carried to the top of the Empire State Building, and in their shared mourning might find the seeds of something truly transformative.
“Oh, honey,” she said, one hand reaching forward to touch my shoulder.
She was kind. That much was true. I’d imagined her in the hold of the ship, comforting Kong in his chains and his seasickness. Backstage, calming him down while tiny men flashed cameras in his helpless face. Eighty stories up, pleading with him to pick her back up, trying to tell him that the airplanes wouldn’t shoot him while he was holding her. Angry at him for not understanding her, or for understanding and not wanting to put her at risk.
I’m thrilled by the news that Blackfish City is the recipient of the 2019 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel! An incredible honor that has gone to some of my favorite books and authors of the past several decades.
Big big love to the award jury – Gregory Benford, Sheila Finch, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Paul Kincaid, Christopher McKitterick, Pamela Sargent, and Lisa Yaszek – as well as my magnificent fellow finalists: Semiosis by Sue Burke, A Spy in Time by Imraan Coovadia, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, Time Was by Ian McDonald, Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice, Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman, Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar, Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts, and The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley
Save the date!
At 6PM on Friday, July 12th, at the incredible BOOKS OF WONDER, at 18 West 18th Street in Manhattan (between 5th and 6th Avenues), we’ll be launching my second YA novel DESTROY ALL MONSTERS!!
Can’t make it? The book is available for pre-order now, digitally and in hardcover, from the bookstore of your choice!! The incredible Kass Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of The 100, said of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS: “Sam J. Miller has cemented his status as one of the most visionary fiction writers of his generation. A staggering, stunning novel.”
I’m super honored to be speaking on an incredible panel at one of my favorite places for thought-provoking events and discussions, the Museum of the City of New York!!
When: Wednesday, June 19, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Price: $20 & up | $15 for Museum Members
Where: Museum of the City of New York / 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 103rd Street) / New York, NY
Here’s what they have to say about it over on the museum’s website:
For the final program in the Museum’s Housing Tomorrow’s City series, we ask a group of visionary urban thinkers, architects, and artists how New Yorkers might inhabit and experience the city several generations from now.
With design researcher Alix Gerber, Designing Radical Futures, Mitchell Joachim, co-founder of architecture and consulting group Terreform ONE, author and community organizer Sam Miller, and artist and interactive designer Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde. Journalist Tanvi Misra of The Atlantic’s CityLab moderates. Expect a lively — and mind-expanding — evening of presentation and discussion.
About the Speakers:
Alix Gerber is a design researcher who works with people to visualize and enact the futures we imagine, striving to provoke discussion around how our society could be more equitable and meaningful. Most recently, Gerber has been developing and teaching courses at Washington University in St. Louis, such as Radical Design, where students imagine alternatives to civic experiences like policing, capitalism or voting. Gerber has also worked with residents of Harlem, New York and Ferguson, Missouri to explore alternatives to our current policing and court systems by making artifacts from divergent futures.
Mitchell Joachim, PhD, Assoc. AIA, is the co-founder of the architecture, urban design research, and consulting group Terreform ONE and an associate professor at NYU. He has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and fellowships with TED, Moshe Safdie, and Martin Society for Sustainability at MIT. Joachim is the winner of many awards including the AIA New York Urban Design Merit Award and the History Channel Infiniti Award for City of the Future. He is the co-author of three books, including XXL-XS: New Directions in Ecological Design (2016).
Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (named best book of the year by Vulture, The Washington Post, Barnes & Noble and one of the best “climate fiction” novels by O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). A recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Miller’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. A community organizer by day, he lives in New York City.
Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde (ayo) is a Nigerian-American artist designer, educator, and time-traveler living and working in New York. His works range from painting and speculative design to physically interactive works, wearable technology and explorations of “Reclamation”. He has exhibited and presented at the 11th Shanghai Biennale, Tribeca Storyscapes, EYEO Festival, Brooklyn Museum, M.I.T. Beyond the Cradle, and Afrotectopia among others. Okunseinde holds an MFA in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design where he is currently an adjunct faculty member.
Tanvi Misra (moderator) is a staff writer for The Atlantic’s CityLab where she covers immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers and her work appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Over at LitHub, I was one of seventeen authors profiled about the role of fiction in addressing climate change – check out my comments, below, and then check out the full, excellent Amy Brady article!
“One hard lesson I’ve learned from my fifteen years as a community organizer is that changing the minds of our enemies is less important than giving hope and power to our friends. I’m not writing for the people who are against us. I don’t mean to say that it’s impossible to convince people with great art—other writers might legitimately feel like the role of fiction in the climate change fight is to convince the skeptical—but that’s not my priority. I want my fiction—and my activism—to galvanize and energize people who already know that something is wrong, but might not feel like they have the power to do anything about it. I want people to see their own power, and the power they can build with others, and to see that fighting back—and winning—isn’t just possible; it’s already happening, every day, all around us.” – Sam J. Miller, author of Blackfish City
Motherboard, VICE Magazine’s science and tech site, has published my new short story “Death and Other Gentrifying Neighborhoods. Set in a sunken Miami, it’s a story of sex, server farms, and the exploited human ‘reboots’ who keep the new world humming.
According to the site:
What you’re about to read—a deft, darkly provocative vision of a near-future that encompasses climate change, sexuality, and the politics of gentrification, to note just a few themes here—is one of the richest, most densely idea-packed speculations you’re ever likely to get your eyeballs on. And it could only have come from the mind of Sam J. Miller, SF writer, community organizer, and author of the Nebula-nominated Blackfish City. I won’t spoil this electrifying piece any further—enjoy. -the Ed.
Kill your darlings, they say – and it’s true – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Editing makes books better, but the process of cutting down a novel means some things you love MUST DIE.
In early drafts of my novel Blackfish City, there were several chapters that were “one-offs,” meaning they were written in the voice of a character who only narrates one chapter – as opposed to the four POV characters who narrate most chapters. My genius editor felt like four narrators was already asking a lot of readers, and these additional voices risked losing some folks. I agreed, and we cut a couple chapters, while some others were incorporated into other chapters. Only one ‘one-off’ remains in the finished text – a chapter at the center of the book, by the character who stands at the center of the story: the mysterious orcamancer.
But the chapter I was saddest to lose was actually narrated by the orcamancer’s killer whale companion. It was the right call, but I was sad to lose it.
So I’m super excited to share that this deleted chapter has been published in its entirety, over at Tor.com!!!
Most peopled places turn the sea sour, foul, toxic. You can smell them from a day’s swim away, the filth they put in the water. The stink of their suffering. This place is not so bad. They have huge machines for processing their waste. The cold keeps them out of the sea. A giant metal cone warms the deep water. We’ve been to seventy-three peopled places, and I think I like this one best. Which isn’t to say I actually like it.
It’s overwhelming, that my story of lesbian warrior grandmas and oversexed gay boys and gender-non-binary revolutionaries AND KILLER WHALES AND POLAR BEARS has received such a positive response. And now, to have gotten this kind of nod from my peers in the science fiction & fantasy community, is beyond incredible.
The whole ballot is full of magnificence. Rebecca Roanhorse, R.F. Kuang, Tomi Adeyemi, Justina Ireland, Roshani Chokshi, BLACK PANTHER (!!!!!), Janelle Monae’s DIRTY COMPUTER (!!!!!!), Henry Lien, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, A.T. Greenblatt, Phenderson Djèlí Clark, Sarah Pinsker, Andy Duncan, Brooke Bolander, Jose Pablo Iriarte, Martha Wells, Kelly Robson, Aliette de Bodard, Mary Robinette Kowal, and tons of other artists whose work I adore.
Last week, I was honored to participate in a powerful conversation at the New York Public Library with fellow contributors to the amazing new anthology A People’s History of the United States (Penguin/Random House/One World). Editor Victor LaValle moderated the discussion with N.K. Jemisin, Alice Sola Kim, Maria Dahvana Headley, and me! The event was sold out, the crowd was incredible – my fellow authors were MAGNIFICENT – and the signing line was around the corner!
But if you missed it, never fear.
Tor.com did a terrific write-up about the event, and they quote me: “he constantly swings between “ecstatic joy” and “profound despair” which leads to his fiction “trying to come to terms with how the world can be both so fucked up and so full of wonderful things how people can do such horrible things and participate, often unwittingly, in such horrible systems, but also do wonderful things as well. I don’t know why that became a story of a future where Prince is illegal and Big Brother Is Listening…but that’s what happened.”
And the library put up video of the full event:
Charlie Jane Anders, one of my very favorite contemporary science fiction writers, was kind enough to include me in an awesome new article over at Tor.com, talking about why serious sci-fi needs to grapple with climate change.
It’s a great article, and discusses some of my favorite books of the past few years, by writers I adore like Cindy Pon and N.K. Jemisin.
Here’s some of what I had to say:
“With Blackfish City, I wanted to paint a realistically terrifying picture about how the world will change in the next hundred years, according to scientists,” says Miller—a picture which includes the evacuation of coastal cities, wars over resources, famines, plague, and infrastructure collapse. “But I also wanted to have hope, and imagine the magnificent stuff we’ll continue to create. The technology we’ll develop. The solutions we’ll find. The music we’ll make.”
“The Road/Walking Dead-style abject hopelessness is not entertaining or stimulating to me,” adds Miller. “Humans are the fucking worst, yes, but they’re also the fucking best.”
To whet the appetites of French audiences, they’ve released a translation of my short story “Calved,” originally published in 2015 by Asimov’s – the first time I explored the floating city of Qaanaaq, which would later become the setting for my novel.
Francophones can download a PDF of the translated story, by clicking here!!
I don’t read French, so I can’t speak to the quality of the translation. BUT, it’s translated by the magnificent Anne-Sylvie Salzman, who also translated the full novel, and she’s been amazing to work with, so I have full faith in her ability to grasp and communicate the heart of the story.
BLACKFISH CITY appeared on Publishers Weekly’s list of the Best Books of 2018!! Here’s what they had to say:
“Miller’s ambitious and driven first novel for adults is a smashing story of everyday life on a floating city after a climate apocalypse. While tackling class, technology, politics, and more, Miller never loses sight of the human beings at the heart of his story, producing a deeply empathic and lovely work of science fiction.”
In addition – an eerie six months after the book’s release, when one has long despaired of seeing any further reviews – Kirkus gave a coveted starred review to BLACKFISH CITY! And said lots of nice things about the book. “Harsh and lovely” is the kinda thing I’d gladly put on my tombstone:
…Populated by the refugees and descendants of refugees from nations destroyed by social upheaval and environmental disasters, Qaanaaq is run by software while political and economic power rests in the hands of landlords, crime gangs, and the ultrawealthy, never-seen shareholders. But what was once a relatively stable system is headed for a shakeup as the gulf between the haves and have-nots widens. Someone is transmitting subversive broadcasts about life in Qaanaaq; a gang lord is planning her ascent to the ranks of shareholders; a woman seeks to help her mother, who’s imprisoned, perhaps unjustly, in an ultrasecure mental hospital; a brain-damaged fighter is pressured into becoming an enforcer; an ambitious courier becomes a spy; and the grandson of a shareholder contracts a sexually transmitted disease that fatally afflicts its carriers with the memories of the previously infected. But true chaos only enters the city with Masaaraq, a tough warrior woman who travels with her psychically bonded orca and a chained polar bear. She has a very specific reason for coming to Qaanaaq, and she does not care whom she harms or what plans she disrupts in the course of fulfilling her purpose. Although it has its bleak and very violent moments, there’s also a certain amount of optimism in this story, which ultimately proves to be about family and the hard-won strength of those who survive against all odds. Author and professional activist Miller (The Art of Starving, 2017) allows his passion for advocacy—for people desperately clinging to their hope for a home, exploited minorities, and those outside the cishet dichotomy—to inform and structure his fiction but in such an integral and yet casual way that it never feels preachy.
Harsh and lovely.
My third novel, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS will be published by HarperTeen in the summer of 2019, and the cover dropped this week, and over at the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog there’s an exclusive reveal of the first two chapters!!
Sam J. Miller swept us off our feet with The Art of Starving, which went on to win the Nebula Award for best YA. After a brief detour in adult sci-fi (Blackfish City), he’s returning to YA with a book that’s every bit as unique, nuanced, and full of depth as his first in the category. We’re thrilled to reveal the first two chapters of Destroy All Monsters, which is, to borrow from the author’s own words, half gritty contemporary and half epic fantasy, with both main characters’ stories centering on the question of how we fight the monsters in our world.
This excerpt shows both narrating characters in their dual-genre glory. Read on and get to know Ash, a teen photographer investigating hate crimes in her small town while tending to the mental health crisis of her best friend, Solomon, and Solomon, a street kid battling monsters and a growing conspiracy against his best friend, Ash.
Feast your eyes on this magnificent cover, designed by Nathan Burton:
I had an amazing time last weekend at New York Comic Con.
I have attended before as a fan, but never as part of the programming. I still got to be a fan, of course, exploring the floor and fighting my way through beautiful crowds and seeing some amazing cosplay, and running into awesome friends, and meeting heroes like Bob Camp, co-creator of Ren & Stimpy, who my husband and I got to thank personally for all the joy and trauma he brought into our lives.
But I was there to work. And they didn’t ease me into it, for my first panel – I was honored and terrified to be part of a panel with brilliant writers Marlon James, Julie Kagawa, Tochi Onyebuchi, Maura Milan, and moderator Ali T. Kokmen, discussing #OwnVoices: How Writers Build Authenticity Into Diverse Worlds. We were in a very big room, that was very very crowded.
Luckily, my terror was unnecessary. I had a great time, and it was an incredibly stimulating conversation. With a lot of laughter, and a lot of wisdom.
BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. Unbound Worlds included it in this awesome listing of “Best SFF Panels You Might Have Missed at New York Comic Con 2018,” and Tor.com did a fantastic write-up of the panel, which you can read here. They even mentioned me a couple times! Here’s my favorite part:
Asked what it was like to see their book covers come to life, the authors absolutely lit up. Maura, having already spoken about her desire to see herself on the cover of a book, talked about how excited her publisher was to work with her, and how they cast Maura’s friend Jessica in the role of the character. Seeing her friend at the photo shoot, dressed in the armor Maura described was an incredible experience. Tochi and Marlon both mentioned that there are standard fonts and images that are usually used for “African books” and how pleased they were that their publishers didn’t try to take that tack with them, but instead listened to the authors’ vision and brought that to life. Julie agreed, talking of how pleased she was with the silver fox mask and the authentic Japanese architecture on her book. And Sam? Well, Sam’s book cover glows in the dark. He also gave out temporary tattoos his publicist had made that matched the tattoo Sam himself got in honor of the book coming out.
Also, video of the full panel exists! And you can watch it! Right here:
My new story “Conspicuous Plumage” appears in the very special 100th issue of Lightspeed Magazine!!
This is super exciting for me. My first pro sale was to Lightspeed. My first Nebula-nominated story was in Lightspeed. They’ve published so many of my favorite stories by all the writers I admire most in the genre. So I am super honored to be able to celebrate this huge milestone with them.
Here’s what one reviewer said about “Conspicuous Plumage”:
LIGHTSPEED #1 was launched in June 2010, and now eight years later, we’ve reached a milestone: Issue 100. To celebrate, we’re publishing a super-sized issue, with ten original stories–more than twice the amount of original fiction than usual–plus ten reprints and some special nonfiction to boot. And to make things even more commemorative, the vast majority of our fiction in this issue, both original and reprint, comes from our most frequently published fiction contributors: the LIGHTSPEEDiest writers to ever LIGHTSPEED. It’s a distillation of what we’re made of, and we’re beyond excited to share it with all of you.
Our cover art this month comes from Hugo award-winning artist (and fifty-three-time LIGHTSPEED illustrator) Galen Dara, illustrating new science fiction from Vylar Kaftan: “Her Monster, Whom She Loved.” We also have new SF from Carrie Vaughn (“Harry and Marlowe and the Secret of Ahomana”), Adam-Troy Castro (“The Last to Matter”), Ken Liu (“The Explainer”), and Sofia Samatar (“Hard Mary”), plus reprints from A. Merc Rustad (“How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps”), Charles Yu (“NPC”), Caroline M. Yoachim (“Stone Wall Truth”), An Owomoyela (“Travelling Into Nothing”), Seanan McGuire (“Frontier ABCs: The Life and Times of Charity Smith, Schoolteacher”), and David Barr Kirtley (“They Go Bump”).
On the fantasy side of the ledger, we’re featuring new work from Maria Dahvana Headley (“You Pretend Like You Never Met Me, and I’ll Pretend Like I Never Met You”), Cadwell Turnbull (“Jump”), Genevieve Valentine (“Abandonware”), Sam J. Miller (“Conspicuous Plumage”), and Kat Howard (“A Brief Guide to the Seeking of Ghosts”), plus we have reprints from Yoon Ha Lee (“The Coin of Heart’s Desire”), Theodora Goss (“Elena’s Egg”), Charlie Jane Anders (“The Super Ultra Duchess of Fedora Forest”), and Jeremiah Tolbert (“The Girl with Sun in Her Head”).
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
At the 2018 Nebula Award ceremony, I was super flabbergasted that my debut The Art of Starving won the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction Novel!!!
This was my fourth time at the Nebula Awards as a nominee, and my first win, and it was a truly humbling honor for my book to have been chosen by my fellow members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
ALSO!!! My mother and my husband were there. And WE GOT TO MEET TELLY!!!!!!! The toastmaster for the ceremony was Martin P. Robinson, who has worked for Sesame Street for 37 years as the puppeteer and voice for Telly, Snuffleupagus, and the Yup-Yup Martians. Afterwards we got to take pictures with him, which was pretty incredible… especially for my husband, who learned English (in part!) from Sesame Street.
Over on YouTube, you can watch my kinda frantic Heart-Beating-So-Fast-I-Thought-I-Would-Die / OMG-I-Am-Standing-In-Front-of-All-My-Favorite-Writers acceptance speech:
It’s up on their website, so I guess it’s cool to share that I’ll be traveling to London for MCM Comic Con to talk BLACKFISH CITY!!!!
… along with a ton of other excellent writers… and artists… and movie stars… (OMG HICKS FROM ALIENS)
“Sam why are you hiding in the green room the entire con?”
“Shut up I’m hoping Hicks from Aliens needs a soda.”
MY FIRST INTERNATIONAL BOOK TRAVEL YALL
Programming details are still being finalized, but I am going to be on four fantastic-sounding panels – if you’re gonna be there, look me up in the program and COME THROOOOOOOOOUGH
I was super-honored to be interviewed by living legend Scott Simon for NPR’s Weekend Edition – and the interview is now up live on their site!! Check it out if you’ve got 6.25 minutes to spare to hear me talk about BLACKFISH CITY, being a small-town butcher, the hypocrisy of American anti-immigrant sentiment, and how awesome my dad was.
MILLER: … people will still find a way to come together and live together, and that it’ll be really hard and really beautiful.
SIMON: The really-hard-and-really-beautiful part sometimes made me wonder if – are we talking about something that’s dystopian or, in a way, utopian?
MILLER: That’s a great question. And I’m not entirely sure I have an answer and probably because I actually believe that both things exist simultaneously in books and in the world around us. There are so many things in our world that are amazing and wonderful and that people a hundred years ago would be shocked and overwhelmed to find that we have the kind of technology and medical care and food abundance that we do now. And so in many ways for many people, this current moment is very utopian. But it is also deeply dystopian, and many people are living really, really hard lives that other people are sort of perfectly happy to ignore.
THE ART OF STARVING is a nominee for the first-ever World Science Fiction Society award for Best Young Adult novel, to be given out at the Hugo Awards!
After several years of shenanigans from far-right factions messing with the ballot to keep marginalized writers from making the list – including one year where I missed being on the ballot by one vote – not that I’m bitter about it or anything – it’s so so wonderful to see such an incredibly diverse list of amazing writers!!
So much love to all the folks who supported me and this weird messy book. I am so so grateful to have such an incredible crew of friends and family and teachers and colleagues and writers and comrades standing alongside me. THANK YOU.
I’m excited to be part of two fantastic panels at this year’s New York City Teen Author Festival, organized by the brilliant David Levithan, as well as a high school visit and a signing! I’ll be talking about THE ART OF STARVING, my writing process, and lots of other fun stuff… but more importantly, I’ll be surrounded by tons of other awesome writers with lots of great stuff to say! See below for my public schedule, including the fab folks I’ll be sharing a stage with – all events are free to the public, though book purchases are STRONGLY encouraged. Seating is first come, first served.
Monday, March 19
Mulberry Street NYPL (10 Jersey Street, Manhattan), 6PM-8PM:
Areas of Expertise: YA Writers on YA Writing
Sarah Darer Littman
Sam J. Miller
Friday March 23,
42nd Street NYPL, South Court (476 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan) 2PM-2:50PM
Queer Voices in YA — The 2018 Edition
Sam J. Miller
Moderator: David Levithan
On Tuesday, April 24th, we’ll celebrate the launch of BLACKFISH CITY at the phenomenal powerHouse bookstore in Brooklyn – and I’m over the moon to announce that I’ll be in conversation with my hero and friend N.K. Jemisin!! Winner of multiple Hugo Awards, including Best Novel for The Fifth Season, possibly my favorite fantasy novel of the past five years, N.K. Jemisin is a genius and I am so so excited to be chatting with her about my book.
DO NOT MISS THIS AWESOME EVENT.
Tuesday Apr 24, 2018
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
POWERHOUSE @ the Archway
28 Adams Street (Corner of Adams & Water Street @ the Archway)
Brooklyn , NY 11201
Today, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America released the ballot for the 2018 Nebula Awards, and I’m thrilled to report that THE ART OF STARVING is a nominee for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel.
Named after the brilliant, prolific author of The Beast Master (who wrote or co-wrote over 250 novels; also the first woman to be SFWA Grand Master!), the award has gone to some of my favorite YA writers – starting with my hero & teacher Holly Black!
I had doubts as to whether this weird, edgy, risky book full of cursing and gay sex would ever get published, let alone get so much love, and I am kvelling A LOT right now.
In just over two months, my novel BLACKFISH CITY will be published by Ecco Press in the US, and Orbit Books in the UK! It’s my first non-YA book, and it’s set in a floating city in the Arctic after rising sea levels have transformed the globe… and a woman arrives one day with an orca and a polar bear, on a mission that could be bloody or beautiful, or both.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, it’s already getting some awesome buzz.
“Miller made waves with his YA debut, The Art of Starving, and will make more with this rich and intense dystopian ensemble story set in a harsh near future.”
and Barnes & Noble listed it under “25 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Debuts to Watch For in 2018“:
“Set in the floating city of Qaanaaq, built in the arctic circle in the wake of the terrible climate wars that saw ground-level cities burned and razed, Miller’s adult debut (his lightly fantastical YA The Art of Starving was one of the most acclaimed books of last year) looks to be a complex jewel of ideas… This is the kind of swirling, original sci-fi we live for.”
It’s been a rough year.
A lot of protests. A lot of phone calls to Senators. A lot of crying over awful things I can’t control.
Also, I had a book come out. That, and the fascist takeover of the government really kept me from doing as much reading as I wanted to do, even though good storytelling is more important than ever, in times like this.
But I did read some great fiction this year. And it helped me a lot. I even published some stuff I’m proud of. So 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 stuff written by other people, as well as the work of my own that I think is halfway decent.
And here are my favorite stories by other writers, from the past year [list in formation]:
- A Place to Grow, by A.T. Greenblatt (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
- Afiya’s Song, by Justin Key (F&SF)
- Auspicium Melioris Aevi, by JY Yang (Uncanny)
- Bear Language, by Martin Cahill (Fireside Fiction)
- Microbiota & the Masses: A Love Story, by S.B. Divya (Tor.com)
- Mix Tapes from Dead Boys, by E. Catherine Tobler (Lightspeed)
- Monster Girls Don’t Cry, by A. Merc Rustad (Uncanny)
- Never Yawn Under a Banyan Tree, by Nibedita Sen (Anathema)
- Nine Tenths of the Law, by Molly Tanzer (Lightspeed)
- Police Magic, by Brent Lambert (Fiyah)
Queen of Dirt, by Nisi Shawl (Apex)
- Red Threads of Fortune, by JY Yang (Tor)
Say, She Toy, by Chesya Burke (Apex)
Skins Smooth as Plantain, Hearts Soft as Mango, by Ian Muneshwar (The Dark)
- Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time, by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny)
- Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus, by Bogi Takács (Clarkesworld)
- Suddenwall, by Sara Saab (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
- The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, by Margaret Killjoy (Tor)
- Wendy, Darling, by A.C. Wise (Daily Science Fiction)
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:
First review for BLACKFISH CITY is in, and it’s a hell of a thing – a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly!! Here it is in its entirety:
“Miller, fresh from his YA debut (The Art of Starving), makes the jump to adult SF with an ambitious, imaginative, and big-hearted dystopian ensemble story that’s by turns elegiac and angry. The floating city of Qaanaaq was constructed after many mainland cities burned or sank. The arrival of a woman with two unusual companions—an orca and a polar bear—draws a disparate group together. Ankit, a political aide, wants to free her institutionalized birth mother; her brother, Kaev, is a brain-damaged fighter at the end of his career; Fill, a rich playboy, has the breaks, an illness that throws sufferers into strangers’ memories; and Soq, an ambitious nonbinary street messenger, is trying to hustle their way into a better life. Together, they uncover a dramatic series of secrets, connections, and political plots. Miller has crafted a thriller that unflinchingly examines the ills of urban capitalism. Qaanaaq is a beautiful and brutal character in its own right, rendered in poetic interludes. The novel stumbles only at the very end, in a denouement that feels just a little too hurried for the characters’ twisting journey.” Agent: Seth Fishman, Gernert Company. (Apr.)
I’ll be doing readings from The Art of Starving in San Diego and San Francisco this month! If you’re in one of those places, stop by!
5943 Balboa Ave, Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92111
San Francisco Bay Area:
2349 Shattuck Avenue
The End of the World Literary Cabaret
The Green Arcade Books
1680 Market Street
San Francisco CA
Super proud and excited to share that I’ve been translated into Russian for the first time!
I majored in Russian Lit in college, so this is a particularly moving milestone. I don’t remember enough of the language to be able to read this translation, but I am sure it’s amazing.
СЭМ ДЖ. МИЛЛЕР «ПЯТЬДЕСЯТ СЕМЬ ПРИЧИН ГРУППОВОГО САМОУБИЙСТВА В СЛАНЦЕВОМ КАРЬЕРЕ»
Feast your eyes on this beauty:
The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper, recently ran a fantastic article on the evolution of YA literature, called “Young Adult Writers Are Changing the Face of Blockbusters,” and I was honored to be interviewed for the piece!
Here’s the opener:
Before Sam J. Miller sold his debut novel The Art of Starving, structured into the 53 commandments that anorexic teen Matt follows to restrict what he eats and — just maybe — nurture mystical superpowers, he was nervous about how, well, adult his young adult novel was. “You’re cool with all the f-bombs and gay sex?” he asked Kristen Pettit, his editor at HarperTeen. “I think it has exactly the right amount of f-bombs and gay sex,” she reassured him.
“She supported me to take it to the limit of where it needed to go,” he says today of the subversive memoir based on Miller’s own experience with an adolescent eating disorder. “If you are going to tell a story about someone’s journey towards self-destruction you have to make it real for people.”
Matt is a painfully relatable underdog for teens and adults alike, even as his questionable decisions make him anything but a role model. But crafting teachable moments is hardly a prerequisite in today’s Young Adult sphere, where diverse, nuanced narratives have emerged as today’s blockbusters — see, for example, the breakout success of this year’s The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, about an African-American girl whose best friend is shot by a white police officer, or YA giant John Green’s novels, which will be joined this fall with the upcoming Turtles All The Way Down, about a 16-year-old whose character was inspired by Green’s own struggles with mental health…
On July 18th, we launched THE ART OF STARVING with an incredible event at Parlor NYC!
I read from the book, had a great conversation with Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams, and answered some excellent questions from the audience. Then I signed a whole lot of books, sold by The Lit Bar, a magnificent pop-up shop currently raising funds to address the horrible injustice that the Bronx currently doesn’t have a single bookstore!!!
See below for just a few of the magnificent images. And my magnificent husband livestreamed the event, and you can watch it here!!!
I’m excited to be traveling to Washington D.C. this weekend, for the OutWrite LGBTQ literary conference!
Held at the DC Center (2000 14th St NW, # 105, Washington D.C.), it’s a celebration of LGBT literature, authors, writers, and poets. On Saturday, August 5th, there will be a full day of readings, panels, book sales, and exhibitors. To finish the weekend, a number of writing workshops will be held on Sunday, August 6th.
On Saturday, at 2PM, I’ll be part of All the Feels: A Queer YA Reading, with M-E Girard, Jaye Robin Brown, Sam J. Miller, & Amanda Gernentz Hanson. Moderated by Rahul Kanakia.
And then at 5PM I will be on a panel called Dignified: On Writing Thoughtful Depictions of Disability & Mental Health, with Sunny Moraine, Marlena Chertock, and Amanda Gernentz Hanson.
If you’re in the DC area, please come through to check it out – seems like it’ll be a fantastic couple of days.
THE ART OF STARVING got some fantastic blurbs from some magnificent folks, and some very good reviews – and got put on a bunch of awesome lists – so here’s a round-up of all of them!!
“Matt’s sarcastic, biting wit keeps readers rooting for him and hoping for his recovery. In his acknowledgments, Miller reveals the story’s roots in his own teen experiences. A dark and lovely tale of supernatural vengeance and self-destruction.” – Kirkus (starred review)
16 SF/F/H Books to Read this July – the Verge
Most-Anticipated LGBT Novels of 2017– Barnes & Noble Teen Blog
7 Essential Fantasy Novels for July – Inverse
Best New Young Adult Books, July 2017 – The Children’s Book Review
“Miller’s heartfelt debut novel tackles difficult subjects with a bold mix of magical realism, tender empathy and candor. Matt is delusional and anorexic, but he’s also an admirably strong character who is out and proud, brilliant, creative, and determined to survive. It’s not always easy to find novels with troubled gay male protagonists who aren’t doomed, and Miller’s creative portrait of a complex and sympathetic individual will provide a welcome mirror for kindred spirits.” – Booklist (starred review)
“There is nothing romantic about debut novelist Miller’s portrayal of anorexia; his descriptions are often graphic and disturbing, and discussion of Matt’s future is brutally honest.” – Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“Sam J. Miller’s debut novel, The Art of Starving, is, perhaps, one of the most important books of the year… a novel with the power to change the world… If you have teenagers, know teenagers, or ever were a teenager, you should read it. If you’ve ever been an outsider, or you’ve ever been lonely, you should read this book. If you’ve ever felt love and heartache, this book is for you. And if you want to teach someone about empathy, friendship, and self-acceptance, buy. Them. This. Book.” – Barnes & Noble Science Fiction Blog
“Damn near perfect… A deeply tragic, if also deeply magical and hopeful story that breaks with expectations to subvert and challenge… perhaps the highest praise that I can give to this novel is to say I wish desperately I had read it when I was young myself.” – Book Smugglers
“His narration is biting, sharply witty and possibly delusional; keeping readers in the moment with Matt and showing only his perspective is a brilliant choice by Sam J. Miller to allow readers full insight into Matt’s mind but keep the mysteries of Maya and Matt’s possible powers at bay. Miller’s powerful, provocative and daring work forces readers to question reality and how much of our world is shaped by what we see.” – Shelf Awareness
“If this debut sounds suspiciously like it will wreak havoc on your feelings, there’s a good reason for that: it totally will. But it’s so worth it, especially with the dearth of eating disorder books in YA starring boys.” – Barnes & Noble Teen Blog
“An extraordinarily vital and necessary book that deals with underrepresented characters, discussions of toxic masculinity, and the effects of bullying in raw and effective ways… the overall message of devotion and self-acceptance is beautifully told.” – RT Reviews
“Behind Matt is a vivid slice of struggling small-town family in a struggling small-town life, and it’s heartbreaking and credible to see how vulnerable on all sides this makes him and why any kind of power, even a self-destroying one, is something to be seized.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“This blend of reality and magical realism is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the season.” – Bookish (“Must-Read YA Books of Summer 2017”)
“Sam J. Miller’s first novel, The Art of Starving, is a gut-wrenching and powerful read about a high school boy clamoring for acceptance… Matt’s journey will feel familiar and hopeful to any reader who’s experienced the precarious scramble for self-acceptance.” – Bookpages
“Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful, The Art of Starving is a classic in the making.” — Book Riot
“THE ART OF STARVING is a gorgeous and heartbreaking book that had me saying “what the…?” while flipping pages so fast I barely cared about the answer to my own question… This is a book that I’ll want to read and re-read in order to glean those beautiful and sometimes painful truths that the author has hidden in Matt’s story.” – YA Books Central
“Exactly as wounding as its synopsis implies, but twice as profound. Framed as a rule book for aspiring superhumans like Matt, the novel is too tongue-in-cheek and bizarre to veer into the realm of the Morality Tale… a bruising and incisive story about a boy at war with himself.” – Tor.com
“It may sound like this story romanticizes eating disorders, but Miller doesn’t shy away from showing the brutality and relentlessness of Matt’s illness. The result is a powerful, often beautiful, and believe it or not, sharply funny novel from Miller.” – Bustle
“The novel’s most distinctive and appealing aspect… is Matt’s own cynical, sarcastic, desperate, and thoroughly believable voice… Miller has by now earned the right to go a bit off the rails, and the novel ends up going exactly where he wants it to go, and where we do as well.” – Locus
“In this touching, harrowing, and self-aware story, Sam J. Miller deftly subverts expectations and blends conventions: the coming-out narrative, the superhero origin tale, Stephen King–esque horror. The result is a moving, original novel for anyone fascinated by the limits of self-control.” – iBooks
“This unique and well-written book is a dark, upsetting, and moving look at one boy’s experience with an eating disorder that will leave readers hopeful that he’s on the path to recovery, but maybe still doubting what has happened to Matt and what his future will hold.” – Teen Librarian Toolbox
“Miller’s novel is a stylistic tour-de-force in the way it creates a completely naturalistic, quirky, unique voice for Matt, never pandering or distractingly meta. Matt himself is made wholly believable by dint of what he chooses to share and what he chooses to gloss over. The Art of Starving is a deeply intelligent and sensitive novel peopled by unforgettable characters. Despite its title, it’s an embarrassment of riches.” – Intergalactic Medicine Show
“Beautifully rendered. This novel will break your heart and heal it again.” — Coretta Scott-King Award/ Newbery Honor/ National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson
“Completely mesmerized by this gorgeous gut punch of a novel… my fav book in recent memory.” – Mackenzi Lee, NYT-bestselling author of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue
“This book is an ache, a bruise, a slaughterhouse of a love story; every word is a blow, but every blow is an anthem. This is what truth feels and smells and tastes like, and it’s one magnificent monster.” — Margaret Stohl, bestselling author of the Beautiful Creatures series
“The Art of Starving is as mind-bending as it is heart-rending. Sam Miller has written a searing, daring, and unflinching story that I will not soon forget.” — Alex London, author of Proxy
“Brutal and brilliant, The Art of Starving seizes you and refuses to let you go. Matt is a complicated, compelling protagonist, and his raw emotional vulnerability is devastating. Hands down, The Art of Starving is the best book I’ve read this year.” — Alyssa Wong, winner of the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards
“The Art of Starving is a humane, deeply felt, heartbreaking novel, observed with an edge as sharp as broken glass. A supervillain coming-of-age novel that made me cry—my god, I loved this book.” — Alaya Dawn Johnson, Nebula and Norton Award winning author of The Summer Prince
“Sam J. Miller’s voice rings through his fiction, both short and long form, bearing important witness to pain and beauty in equal measure. (I refuse, in point of fact, to imagine a world without his voice.) With The Art of Starving — a wrenching look at a young man’s world turned inside out — Miller has given superpowers to a modern-day Holden Caufield and set the result loose upon the world. Haunting.” ~ Fran Wilde, Award-winning author of Updraft, Cloudbound, and Horizon
“As gritty with salted wounds as are all great fairytales, The Art of Starving is The Outsiders with superpowers. A quest to avenge his missing sister turns Matt into a self-perceived starvation saint. His journey from from addicted boy to recovering man should be shelved alongside the classic stories of unexpected salvation.” – Maria Dahvana Headley
“A biting debut, full of whiplash dark humor and heart.” – Roshani Chokshi, author of the Norton-Award-nominated THE STAR-CROSSED QUEEN.
Two phenomenal launch events are coming up for THE ART OF STARVING – one in New York City, and one in my home town of Hudson, NY, where the novel is set. I’ll be reading from the book, and answering questions, and signing copies!! AND THERE WILL BE SNACKS. This event is free and open to the public and is wheelchair accessible. Copies of the books will be available for purchase, thanks to The Lit. Bar!!!
NEW YORK CITY LAUNCH EVENT
Parlor NYC – 286 Spring Street, NYC
Tuesday, July 18th, 7PM
HUDSON LAUNCH EVENT
Hudson Area Library – 51 North Fifth Street, Hudson NY 12534
Saturday, July 29th, 2PM