Sometimes, for some reason, people ask me things about my work and about myself…
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
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.”
On Scott Edelman’s fab podcast “Eating the Fantastic,” he interviews science fiction & fantasy & horror writers over an awesome meal… and I’m the guest on the latest issue, out now!! It was the first vegetarian episode, recorded at Baltimore’s One World Cafe during the Baltimore Book Festival.
Here’s what Scott has to say about the episode:
My guest who stole away from the Inner Harbor to join me this episode is Sam J. Miller, a writer who’s been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, and who won the Shirley Jackson Award for his short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.” And who last shared a meal with me during the 2015 Nebula Awards weekend at Alinea, considered to be one of the Top 10 restaurants in the world. His debut novel, The Art of Starving, will appear from HarperCollins in 2017.
We discussed the value of community within the science fiction field, the transformative piece of advice he received from Ted Chiang while attending the Clarion Writers Workshop, how one deals with reviews that are more politically than artistically motivated, the way 9/11 changed horror movies, the importance of the life and works of the great Thomas M. Disch, and more.
- Click through to the iTunes store and subscribe—where you can also find the previous 23 episodes.
- Download episodes onto whatever device you’d like by using the show’s RSS feed of http://eatingthefantastic.libsyn.com/rss.
And Subscribe to Eating the Fantastic now so you never miss an episode!
Over at Inverse, Ryan Britt asks the question: what is the future of science fiction in Trump’s America? And he was good enough to ask my opinion, and to give me the last word in his article!
The short version: the future looks terrifying, for so many of the communities who Trump and his allies have targeted, and we’re going to need outlandish stories even more in the outlandish times ahead.
I gave Ryan more to work with than he was able to include in the finished article, but here’s the full quote:
“Trump’s election hasn’t told us anything we didn’t already know. For many of the most important and powerful voices in the genre, now as in the past, profound racism and misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia are far too real already. Think of The Handmaid’s Tale, about a far-right anti-woman Christian fundamentalist takeover of the US government, or Octavia Butler’s Parable books – a trilogy that she couldn’t complete because it was too traumatic to dig any deeper into a dystopia that Reagan’s America had come to resemble far too closely. Today, writers like Alyssa Wong and N.K. Jemisin and Usman Tanveer Malik and many others are singing terrifying brilliant songs of our not-so-brave not-so-new world of drone bombings, hate crimes, and genocide.
“What will change, I think, is how people respond to science fiction. The future of science fiction in Trump’s America is that people will need it more. As the world grows darker and stranger, we will need dark and strange stories. That has always been a function of the genre. To help us hope and imagine better worlds and wondrous technologies, yes, but also to help us grieve, and understand, and grow stronger, and fight back.”
I was invited to participate in the “My Writing Process Blog Tour” by Carmen Maria Machado, who was invited by Sofia Samatar (@SofiaSamatar), who was invited by Daniel José Older (@djolder). I in turn tagged my astonishingly-talented brother-by-another-mother David Edison, who will follow me shortly…
1) What are you working on?
Right now I’m juggling several short stories in various states of unfinishedness (a story is never finished until it’s published), as well as doing a merciless edit of my YA SFF novel “Stealing Normal,” which is causing me profound anxiety and self-doubt. Which may be a good thing? It hurts, so that probably means it’s good for me.
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
I don’t know if there’s anything that makes my work completely unique – there’s so much astonishing stuff happening now in science fiction and fantasy, with so many great writers doing things I hugely admire. The way Ted Chiang tears your heart out with such beautiful, real human relationships (and oh yeah there’s a shit ton of rigorous science and knowledge to ground it), the way Ken Liu engages history. Karen Joy Fowler, Kelly Link, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Saladin Ahmed, Paolo Bacigalupi, and a hundred other terrific writers excite me. I think what makes my work ‘my work’ is my own particular set of fascinations, the subjects I am drawn to – things like privilege and oppression and resistance and history; things like how our relationships with other people are impacted by the society we live in. As a community organizer, as someone who believes that people have more power when they work together, I often find myself creating magic systems or tech that depend upon collaboration, or become stronger the more people are connected – it’s why Octavia Butler’s “Mind of My Mind” is probably my favorite SF novel. Some people use SFF to imagine better worlds, and that’s super valuable, but for me it’s more about using the genre toolkit as a lens on what’s wrong (and what’s wonderful) (but mostly wrong) with the world we have.
3) Why do you write what you do?
Christ, I don’t know. Because life is full of horror and suffering and loss and sadness, and fiction can help us make sense of it? Because we’re all going to die? Because when I was in elementary school I was bad at sports and had no friends and so I lied to people about having seen horror movies I wasn’t in fact allowed to see, and then kids wanted to talk to me so I would narrate the plots of these movies, which of course were totally made up, or based only on the poster, or the description on the back of the box at the video store, so telling elaborate lies about monsters and bloodshed became a social survival mechanism? Also I love James Baldwin on the subject: “Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true of everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.”
4) How does your writing process work?
At any given moment I have approximately one gajillion ideas bouncing around in my head – characters, situations, titles, speculative elements, weird shit that really happened, news stories, YouTube videos, etc. I tend to let that stuff percolate for a while, encouraging story ideas to bounce off each other, adding stuff to a spreadsheet (YES I HAVE A SPREADSHEET OF STORY IDEAS DON’T JUDGE ME). Usually a story doesn’t really start rolling for me until a couple separate ideas come together (“what if that boy trying to find his vanished best friend were a survivor of that Soviet human experimentation you read about?”) and then I can start to put flesh on the bones. Reading helps, and watching television and movies – seeing new exciting ways to tell stories, or noting tropes or tricks that have an emotional impact on me, often provides the “ah-ha!” moment that can solve a writing puzzle I’ve been stumped by. As for when I write – early mornings, weekends, wherever I can steal an hour or two. Heavily impacted by my day job demands and whatever mountain of television shows my husband and I are currently digging ourselves out from under.