THE BIG BOOK OF CYBERPUNK came out today, and it’s an incredible 1100-page compendium of genre magnificence – including my short story “Feral Arcade Children of the American Northeast,” originally published in The Southwest Review (yep, the Northeast meets the Southwest).
From the publisher:
“Award-winning anthologist Jared Shurin brings together over a hundred stories from more than twenty-five countries that both establish and subvert the classic cyberpunk tropes and aesthetic—from gritty, near-future noir to pulse-pounding action. Urban rebels undermine monolithic corporate overlords. Daring heists are conducted through back alleys and the darkest parts of the online world. There’s dangerous new technology, cybernetic enhancements, scheming AI, corporate mercenaries, improbable weapons, and roguish hackers. These tales examine the near-now, extrapolating the most provocative trends into fascinating and plausible futures.”
“Sam J. Miller’s “Feral Arcade Children of the American Northeast” (Southwest Review) weaponises nostalgia, bringing to life the misbegotten dark-side of a ‘more innocent time’. Although ultimately empowering, it punctures our myths of a 1980s childhood, far more Lost Boys than Ready Player One.”
I’m honored to be in the mix, alongside heroes like William Gibson and Janelle Monae and Samuel R. Delany and Ken Liu and and and and and…
…here’s the entire 108-story Table of Contents.
Yasser Abdellatif – “Younis in the Belly of the Whale” (2011) – translation by Robin Moger
K.C. Alexander – “Four Tons Too Late” (2014)
Madeline Ashby – “Be Seeing You” (2015)
Ryuko Azuma – “2045 Dystopia” (2018) – first translation by Marissa Skeels
Jacques Barcia – “Salvaging Gods” (2010)
Greg Bear – “Petra” (1982)
Steve Beard – “Retoxicity” (1998)
Bef – “Wonderama” (1998) – first translation by the the author
Bruce Bethke – “Cyberpunk” (1983)
Lauren Beukes – “Branded” (2003)
Russell Blackford – “Glass Reptile Breakout” (1985)
Maurice Broaddus – “I Can Transform You” (2013)
Pat Cadigan – “Pretty Boy Crossover” (1986)
Myra Çakan – “Spider’s Nest” (2004) – translation by Jim Young
Beth Cato – “Apocalypse Playlist” (2020)
Suzanne Church – “Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop” (2012)
Samuel R. Delany – “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” (1968)
Paul Di Filippo – “A Short Course in Art Appreciation” (1988)
Philip K. Dick – “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (1966)
Cory Doctorow – “0wnz0red” (2002)
Candas Jane Dorsey – “[Learning About] Machine Sex” (1988)
George Alec Effinger – “The World As We Know It” (1992)
Greg Egan – “Axiomatic” (1990)
Isabel Fall – “Helicopter Story” (2020)
Minister Faust – “Somatosensory Cortex Dog Mess You Up Big Time, You Sick Sack of S**T” (2021)
Fabio Fernandes – “WiFi Dreams” (2019) – translation by the author
Taiyo Fujii – “Violation of the TrueNet Security Act” (2013) – translation by Jim Hubbert
Ganzeer – “Staying Crisp” (2018)
William Gibson – “The Gernsback Continuum” (1981)
William Gibson and Michael Swanwick – “Dogfight” (1985)
Eileen Gunn – “Computer Friendly” (1989)
Omar Robert Hamilton – “Rain, Streaming” (2019)
Karen Heuler – “The Completely Rechargeable Man” (2008)
Saad Hossain – “The Endless” (2020)
Gwyneth Jones – “Red Sonja and Lessingham in Dreamland” (1996)
Richard Kadrey – “Surfing the Khumbu” (2002)
Khalid Kaki – “Operation Daniel” (2016) – translation by Adam Talib
James Patrick Kelly – “Rat” (1986)
John Kessel – “The Last American” (2007)
Cassandra Khaw – “Degrees of Beauty” (2016)
Christian Kirchev – “File: the death of Designer D” (2009)
Aleš Kot – “A Life of Its Own” (2019)
Nancy Kress – “With the Original Cast” (1982)
Naomi Kritzer – “Cat Pictures Please” (2015)
Lavanya Lakshminarayan – “Études” (2020)
David Langford – “comp.basilisk.faq” (1999)
Oliver Langmead – “Glitterati” (2017)
Fritz Leiber – “Coming Attraction” (1950)
Jean-Marc Ligny – “RealLife 3.0” (2014) – first translation by N.L.M. Roshak
Arthur Liu – “The Life Cycle of a Cyber Bar” (2021) – translation by Nathan Faries
Ken Liu – “Thoughts and Prayers” (2019)
Steven S Long – “Keeping Up with Mr Johnson” (2016)
M. Lopes da Silva – “Found Earworms” (2019)
James Lovegrove – “Britworld™” (1992)
Nick Mamatas – “Time of Day” (2002)
Phillip Mann – “An Old-Fashioned Story” (1989)
Lisa Mason – “Arachne” (1987)
Tim Maughan – “Flyover Country” (2016)
Ken MacLeod – “Earth Hour” (2011)
Paul J McAuley – “Gene Wars” (1991)
Sam J. Miller – “Feral Arcade Children of the American Northeast” (2021)
Misha – “Speed” (1988)
Janelle Monáe and Alaya Dawn Johnson – “The Memory Librarian” (2022)
Sunny Moraine – “I Tell Thee All, I Can No More” (2013)
Michael Moss – “Keep Portland Wired” (2020)
T.R. Napper – “Twelve Minutes to Vinh Quang” (2015)
Kim Newman – “SQPR” (1992)
Mandisi Nkomo – “Do Androids Dream of Capitalism and Slavery?” (2020)
Jeff Noon – “Ghost Codes of Sparkletown” (2011)
Brandon O’Brien – “fallenangel.dll” (2016)
Craig Padawer – “Hostile Takeover” (1985)
Victor Pelevin – “The Yuletide Cyberpunk Yarn, or Christmas_Eve-117.DIR.” (1996) – first translation by Alex Shvartsman
Harry Polkinhorn – “Consumimum Igni” (1990)
Gerardo Horacio Porcayo – “Ripped Images, Rusty Dreams” (1993) – first translation by the author
qntm – “Lena” (2021)
Jean Rabe – “Better Than” (2010)
Yurei Raita – “The Day a Computer Wrote a Novel” (2019) – translation by Marissa Skeels
Cat Rambo – “Memories of Moments, Bright as Falling Stars” (2006)
Paul Graham Raven – “Los Pirates del Mar de Plastico” (2014)
Justina Robson – “The Girl Hero’s Mirror Says He’s Not the One” (2007)
Pepe Rojo – “Grey Noise” (1996) – translation by Andrea Bell
Nicholas Royle – “D.GO.” (1990)
Rudy Rucker – “Juicy Ghost” (2019)
Erica Satifka – “Act of Providence” (2021)
Nisi Shawl – “I Was a Teenage Genetic Engineer” (1989)
Lewis Shiner – “The Gene Drain” (1989)
John Shirley – “Wolves of the Plateau” (1988)
Zedeck Siew – “The White Mask” (2015)
J.P. Smythe – “The Infinite Eye” (2017)
Neal Stephenson – “The Great Simoleon Caper” (1995)
Bruce Sterling – “Deep Eddy” (1993)
Bruce Sterling and Paul Di Filippo – “The Scab’s Progress” (2001)
Charles Stross – “Lobsters” (2001)
E.J. Swift – “Alligator Heap” (2016)
Wole Talabi – “Aboukela52” (2019)
Molly Tanzer – “The Real You™” (2018)
K.A. Teryna – “The Tin Pilot” (2021) – translation by Alex Shvartsman
Jeffrey Thomas – “Immolation” (2000)
Lavie Tidhar – “Choosing Faces” (2012)
James Tiptree Jr. – “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (1973)
Vauhini Vara – “Ghosts” (2021)
Marie Vibbert – “Electric Tea” (2019)
Corey J. White – “Exopunk’s Not Dead” (2019)
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne – “The State Machine” (2020)
Neon Yang – “Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points” (2014)
E. Lily Yu – “Darkout” (2016)
Yun Ko-eun – “P.” (2011) – first translation by Sean Lin-Halbert
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro – “wysiomg” (2016)
Incredible news – Kid Wolf & Kraken Boy is a winner of the Subjective Chaos Kind Of Award!
According to the organizers:
“Sam J Miller’s brilliant novella is a period fantasy of New York’s 1920s boxing scene, ruthlessly controlled by Jewish gangsters and infused with tattoo magic. Betrayal, forbidden love and labour rights are key themes in a story that swept me off my feet and left me giddy with its ambitions to fight for a better world.”
More on the award itself:
The Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards are an annual celebration of science fiction, fantasy, and stories that combine speculative elements from multiple genres. A rotating panel of book lovers nominates, reads, debates and votes to award the very best – in our opinion – across a number of subgenres and formats. SKCA beats the drum for great fiction that might otherwise have passed readers by. It has been acknowledged as a significant award for stories outside the mainstream and as a lair for dangerously chaotic opinions.
Dangerously chaotic – the state to which I aspire.
And the award trophy is a painted pebble!! 😍😍😍 Profoundly grateful to the organizers and judges.
This is awesome – I’m returning to the New York Public Library, whose literary events are legend.
Confronting Climate Anxiety in Fiction with Akil Kumarasamy, Sam J. Miller, Nathaniel Rich, and Jeff VanderMeer
Writers whose novels and stories have crossed the intersection of climate change and mental health ask whether fiction can have a meaningful impact on how we handle the climate crisis.
Thu. Sep 21, 2023 7:00pm – 8:00pm EDT
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Celeste Bartos Forum
476 5th Ave / New York,, NY 10018
I’m more than a little intimidated by this lineup, and the topic – something I think a ton about but haven’t necessarily arrived at any pithy helpful soundbite-friendly insights lol
Last time I was there was in 2019, discussing the anthology “A People’s Future of the United States” with luminaries Victor LaValle, Maria Dahvana Headley, N.K. Jemisin, and Alice Sola Kim – you can see the full video of that event here.
The World Fantasy Award ballot just dropped, and I’m overjoyed to find BOYS, BEASTS & MEN on there!
The love for this weird horny gay depressive collection has just been so mind-blowing. Short stories are a weird business, because the audience for them can seem so small – they don’t rack up tons of Goodreads ratings or Amazon reviews or any of the other main metrics by which we measure our
relevance audience size, so stuff like this means so much. Big big love to the jury, and to everyone who read and connected with this book.
I always say community is a superpower, and so much of my craft as a short story writer was shaped by my experience in two incredible groups of writers who I’ve got to shout out here: the Clarion Class of 2012 (Deborah Bailey, Eliza Blair, Lisa Bolekaja, Sadie Bruce, E. G. Cosh, Danica Cummins, Lara Elena Donnelly, Eric Esser, Jonathan Fortin, R. K. Kalaw, Chris Kammerud, Joseph Kim, Pierre Liebenberg, Sarah Mack, Carmen Maria Machado, Dan McMinn, Luke R. Pebler, and teachers Jeffrey Ford, Delia Sherman, Ted Chiang, Walter Jon Williams, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, as well as guest critic Karen Joy Fowler), and the Altered Fluid writing group (Adanze Asante, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Alyssa Wong, D. T. Friedman, Devin Poore, E.C. Myers, Gay Partington Terry, Greer Woodward, K. Tempest Bradford, Kai Ashante Wilson, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Kris Dikeman, Lilah Wild, Martin Cahill, Matthew Kressel, Mercurio D. Rivera, N. K. Jemisin, Paul Berger, Rajan Khanna, Rick Bowes, Theresa DeLucci, and Tom Crosshill). I feel forever grateful and fortunate to be a part of both.
And I’m obsessed with the incredible introduction that my friend and hero Amal El-Mohtar wrote for the book, and my gratitude to Amal is endless and boundless.
Last time I was nominated for a World Fantasy Award it was in 2016, back before they changed the statue from a hideous bust of a hideous racist, so now I am EXTRA HOPEFUL that I’ll take one home! But honestly the whole ballot is so magnificent, and my category includes some of my absolute faves, so I’m super happy for WHOEVER wins.
I’ve been a big fan of The Dark for a while – co-editors Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Sean Wallace have created one of the coolest scariest venues for new horror around.
So I was overjoyed when they accepted my short story “If Someone You Love Has Become a Vurdalak“!!
Apologies in advance. It’s super fucked up. About brotherhood and addiction and how we make space for (or build walls around) people we love who are fundamentally toxic.
I must have seen Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath at a weird moment in my life (possibly pre-sobriety lol) because I have haunting vivid total recall of the center story, and absolutely no recollection of the other two tales in the trilogy. But of course they didn’t have Boris Karloff in them! His episode was called “I Wurdulak” and it’s about an actual folkloric monster that I’ve almost never seen explored anywhere else in horror, although it’s a brilliant narrative engine: a vampire that can’t just suck anyone’s blood – they can only live off the life force of the people they love (you can actually watch the full Karloff/Bava episode here). And that terrifying idea lodged in my brain for many years before blossoming into this story.
I hope you love it.
I wrote a zine!
It’s called Community is a Superpower, and features original art by the awesome Yorgos Cotronis (and a few raggedy pieces by meeee). You can read it on Uncanny, or you can download it for printing and distribution just like a real zine! Big big love to nonfiction editor Meg Elison, for acquiring it, and managing editor Monte Lin for helping wrangle it into reality.
Basically it’s me back on my bullsh*t about the power of connection and collaboration to change the world – IRL, and in stories.
Here’s the intro:
The Hero’s Journey is dead.
It has nothing further to teach us.
We’ve seen enough tales of brave boys ending evil empires with only a magic sword or light saber or assault rifle.
These stories have taken us down a toxic path where millions of angry people–mostly but not exclusively male–believe that the answer to injustice is furious solitary violence.
I’m not saying the Hero’s Journey is gone. On the contrary–it’s everywhere. I’m saying it’s dead. And every horror fan knows something can be dead but keep on killing people. Like zombies, these stories might be slow and stupid, but there are a lot of them, and they will fuck you up…
The Locus Award ballot just dropped, and I was over the moon to see that BOYS, BEASTS & MEN was on the ballot in the Best Collection category! Big big love to everyone who voted for my book. And to the incredible Tachyon, for publishing the collection – along with so many other magnificent books.
It’s an incredible ballot, packed with friends and faves of mine.
Go read all the things!!
The initiative pairs science fiction and fantasy authors with leading scientists and scholars of the renowned Ivy League university, so that we can learn about their work and write original fiction shaped by their research, to be published in an anthology by Lightspeed later this year.
It was an incredible line-up of some of my favorite contemporary authors, as well as scholars doing trailblazing work in many different disciplines. Underwater swarming robots! Imagination in primates! The melting of the Greenland ice shelf! The Late Antiquity religious roots of our contemporary concept of debt! The boundary between quantum and classical mechanics!
That last one was mine – theoretical physicist Miles P. Blencowe. His work focuses on how the macroscopic world we inhabit, governed by classical Newtonian mechanics, exists alongside the counterintuitive, downright-spooky microscopic world of quantum mechanics. Both systems are completely consistent, and completely incompatible!
I struggled with math and science in school, and that experience has caused me to run screaming from the subjects ever since – to the detriment, I think, of some of my work. So it was wonderful to go “back to school,” and have the chance to see firsthand how actually-fascinating these subjects can be. And Miles’ work is so exciting, and his skill breaking down the nuance of quantum physics made a huge difference.
Also I got a tour of an experimental physics lab, which was super mind-blowing. Some photos below – nine-foot-long amplifier arrays for making the quantum world visible to human senses, machinery for isolating quantum systems so electrons can be seen through a scanning tunneling microscope, and using ions to etch circuitry that subatomic particles can pass through, and recycling expensive helium for hypercooling…. and… and….
Yeah. It was a lot. All excellent. I’m super excited for the story I’ve got percolating, and even more excited for the new horizons this opens up for my work in general.
This is a big one!
I’ve submitting to the Kenyon Review since I was seventeen. It’s one of the very best of the old-school literary fiction outlets: been around since 1939; was “perhaps the best known and most influential literary magazine in the English-speaking world during the 1940s and ’50s;” published more O. Henry Award winners than any other nonprofit journal; still slaying the game.
My story “A Field Guide to the Bear-Men of Leningrad” is in the spring 2023 issue!! You can read the whole thing on their website.
It’s a rare non-speculative thing from me: about boyhood and masculinity and all-too-human monstrosity in 1930s Russia. Paying off my age-old obsession with Soviet history (and decades of submissions to the Kenyon Review!!)
I’ve got some fresh fiction out this month: a story in Lightspeed called “His Guns Could Not Protect Him.” It’s about a little boy learning he doesn’t have to be like either of his parents, in a world where everyone has their very own monster waiting for them somewhere.
His guns hadn’t helped him. I wondered if someone else’s had. I imagined that massive wolf, knocking him off his motorcycle. Picking him up in its teeth. I wanted to think there had been some bystander with a shotgun who saved my father’s life, but interventions like that were rare. Monsters were focused on one person in particular, but they’d kill a hundred thousand people if they stood between them and their target. So in an attack, people mostly pretended like it wasn’t happening.
Lightspeed ran a short interview with me about the piece – here’s a taste, with the backstory behind the story story:
How did “His Guns Could Not Protect Him” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
This really happened to me! But without the monsters. When I was ten my father got in a bad motorcycle accident, and my mom had to rush up to Albany Medical and left us in the care of family friends who were significantly wealthier than us. It was terrifying (and fascinating), and the scars on my psyche festered into this story after about thirty-plus years.
Check it out – hope you love it!
“In the realm of short fiction BOYS, BEASTS & MEN by Sam J. Miller was released over the summer season: a long-anticipated first collection! The stories inside “weave together two fictional lineages: the tradition of political queer sf, and the tradition of weird gay art,” to powerful and provocative ends.”
—Lee Mandelo at Tor.com
It’s official: I’m heading our on tour to promote my new short story collection BOYS, BEASTS & MEN !
In June and July I’ll be doing readings to in New York City, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
Here are the details, some of which are still coming together. Watch this space for updates.
And if you’re in one of those places, mark your calendars now!!
Hope to see you there!!
Way back in 2014, I won the Shirley Jackson Award for my short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.” A weird gay story from an unknown author – it had been my first pro story sale!
It was one of my proudest moments. And it wouldn’t have been possible without this awesome independent award, where the passions and perspectives of a handful of individual jurors could spotlight the oddball stuff that would be missed by the bigger awards, with their inevitable bias toward established names.
So I’m over-the-moon-honored to be part of the award jury this year, judging the short story and novelette categories.
And I want your recommendations! If there are horror / dark fiction stories that you loved (or wrote) (or published) in 2021, tell me all about them! Follow this thread for the dozens of amazing stories that have already been suggested, and to make recommendations of your own!
My first novella drops July 13 from Rebellion/Solaris’s Satellites line!! KID WOLF & KRAKEN BOY is the story of forbidden love between a Jewish boxer & his tattoo artist in 1920s NYC. Also there’s a bad-ass crime empress. And tattoos give magic powers.
The full flap copy:
“Kid” Wolffe is an up-and-coming boxer in 1920s New York. An honest fighter’s got little chance at success on the mob-controlled circuit—until ambitious lieutenant “Hinky” Friedman starts making moves to take over her boss’s business, and sees a use for the kid.
Teitelstam is a struggling tattoo artist, whose natural talent for ink magic won’t amount to much without formal training. So he’s got no idea why Hinky would offer him ten times what he’s worth to come work for her.
But Hinky has a vision for a better world, and her high-stakes plan to make it reality requires both Wolffe’s fists and Teitelstam’s magic. What neither Wolffe nor Teitelstam expects is to fall in love; and in this world, love might be more dangerous than deadly magic or an underworld turf war…
I wrote THE BLADE BETWEEN to help process all my messy, complex feelings about the transformation of my home town of Hudson, NY. And I was excited (and scared) to engage in dialogue with other folks who call it home – the ones who go back generations as well as the new arrivals.
But because the book dropped in December of 2020, pandemic restrictions meant public events were impossible.
So I am super happy to share details on an AN ACTUAL IRL reading and Q&A I’m giving on Monday, 3/28, to celebrate the book’s paperback release. If you’re in or around Hudson, come through! If not – you can still tune in! It’s a hybrid event; you can attend on Zoom.
Would love to see you there – in person or on a screen.
Beyond insanely proud and happy and humbled that I’m on the ballot for the 57th annual Nebula Awards!!
“Let All the Children Boogie” took a long time to gestate and finalize and find its way into the world, and it’s such a tingly privilege to receive this kind of recognition for my gnarled messy story of queer teen love and the transformative power of music – and Iggy Pop and David Bowie – and the very 90’s feeling of falling in love with a song you heard on the late-night radio and had no way of learning more about, might never discover again.
The short story category – and the ballot as a whole – is filled to bursting with incredible talent and brilliant writing. GO READ IT ALLLLLLLL
Tor.com just announced the Table of Contents to its annual “Best of” anthology, for the short fiction it published in 2021, and my story “Let All the Children Boogie” is included!
It’s about a bunch of my usual obsessions – queer teenage love and mysterious late night radio broadcasts and maybe time-traveling super-intelligences? But mostly it’s about David Bowie, and Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” and the lonesome magic way music can break you out of the bubble of your body.
The eBook edition will be available for free from all your favorite vendors on January 25, 2022. But in the meantime, you can click here to read my story – or walk this way to find all the other fabulous fictions!
My short story collection BOYS, BEASTS, & MEN will be published by Tachyon in May of 2022 – and now it has a cover!! The gorgeously creepy artwork is by Jennifer O’Toole, and perfectly matches the vibe of the stories.
You’ll also notice that the book features an introduction by the incredible Amal El-Mohtar, one of my absolute faves. I am so honored and grateful!
I’ve been submitting to the Southwest Review since 2009, and now I am proud to say that my short story “Feral Arcade Children of the American Northeast” will appear in this year’s Halloween edition!
This annual edition is always such a highlight – last year’s, edited by the incredible Gabino Iglesias, was brilliant – so it’s such an honor to be in the mix on this.
The story was workshopped at Sycamore Hill in 2018, where it benefited hugely from the wise critiques of Nathan Ballingrud, Ashley Blooms, Brooke Bolander, Richard Butner, Siobhan Carroll, Andy Duncan, Gregory Frost, Alice Sola Kim, Meghan McCarron, Lilliam Rivera, Christopher Rowe, and E. Lily Yu. Oh look! Here they are:
I can hardly wait for Halloween! I mean, that’s always true, but especially now. As a teaser, here’s the opening paragraph:
Here’s some delightful insanity: almost eight months after publication, THE BLADE BETWEEN is a bestseller, according to Library Journal.
In fact, it’s #2 on the Bestseller List in the Horror category, ahead of some of my very favorite recent scary books (and Shirley Jackson, wtf), including the amazing anthology Tiny Nightmares, which has a story of mine!
My shock is not false modesty. It’s unusual for a book to hit the lists so long after publication without some big visible event, and as far as I can see there’s been nothing.
And – ask any author who had a book drop during the COVID-19 lockdown – it’s been a difficult year for book sales, with libraries and stores unable to do the vital work they do, connecting readers with new authors. So it’s incredibly gratifying, and surprising, to see readers connecting with my monster baby so long after birth.
Big big love to everyone who has read and talked about it!!
I was crazy honored to speak with two of my favorite writers, Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz, on their magnificent podcast “Our Opinions are Correct.” Which, if you’re not subscribed to, correct that mistake immediately!
Episode 84, “The Eldritch Horror of Gentrification,” is out now. An incredible opportunity to talk with two brilliant minds about an issue that obsesses me, and is at the heart of my new horror novel.
“Recently there’s been a rise in horror stories that deal with gentrification. We talk about real-life urban displacement, and the fictional tales that turn it into cosmic incursions and body-swapping nightmares. Plus, we talk to Sam J. Miller about his new novel The Blade Between, and how he used monsters to explore what happens when a small town in upstate New York gets taken over by urban hipsters and techies.”
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 be 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: