SFF Fandom

Nebula Battle Tableaux: The Complete Saga

On the final day of Nebula voting, three warrior nominees from the Short Story Category engaged in a FIERCE BLOODY BATTLE FOR NEBULA SUPREMACY. Amal and I fought valiantly, but Alyssa emerged victorious – huge love and congrats to our comrade and Nebula Award Winning colleague!!

Cast: Alyssa Wong, Amal El-Mohtar, Sam J. Miller

Credits: Art Direction – Julia Rios, Principal Photography – Moss Collum & Isabel Yap, Hair & Make-Up – Sunny Moraine.


Episode One: Combatants battle with supernatural abilities from their own fiction. L-r: Amal El-Mohtar launches attack owls (from “The Truth About Owls”), Alyssa Wong opens up a jar of stolen vicious nasty emotion (from “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers”), and Sam J. Miller flings pyrokinetic fire (from “The Heat of Us”).



After defeating Finn (Sam J. Miller) in a bloody light saber battle, Kylo Ren (Alyssa Wong) uses the force to take the coveted 2015 #Nebula Award for Best Short Story… BUT WAIT!! Rey (Amal El-Mohtar) is even MORE skilled in the force, and claims the Nebula for herself..sketch266191126-2-picsay.jpg


Sam J. Miller tries to trick the ICFA Crocodile into eating fellow nominee Amal El-Mohtar, while Alyssa Wong takes glorious, oblivious selfies.



Alyssa Wong eliminates the #Nebula competition, pushing Sam J. Miller to his death in the spike pit that was inexplicably incorporated into the architecture of a Florida airport hotel, while Amal El-Mohtar is too immersed in her book to notice… or worry if she might be next.



Astride her plesiosaur, Amal El-Mohtar engages T-rex-rider Alyssa Wong and styracosaur warrior Sam J. Miller in epic carnage battle to the death. Winner takes all… or at least the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story.



Basking in her Nebula win, Alyssa Wong is too busy taking selfies to notice Amal El-Mohtar poison her coffee… while Sam J. Miller is too enamored of his new tattoo to be of any help whatsoever.



The tables are turned when the magical weapons and fearsome monsters that Amal El-Mohtar &Alyssa Wong & Sam J.Miller have been using to battle for #NebulaAwards supremacy gang up on them! ATTACK OWLS AND PYROKINESIS AND DINOSAUR STEEDS AND CROCODILES AND BOTTLED TOXIC EMOTIONS OH MY


Sigourney Weaver, in conversation about Aliens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calved” in Asimov’s

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

Ghosts of Home,” in Lightspeed

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

When Your Child Strays From God” in Clarkesworld

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

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

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

To Die Dancing in Apex

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

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

Review Round-Up for “We Are the Cloud”!

I’m more proud of “We Are the Cloud” than almost any other story I’ve ever written, and was so beyond ecstatic when it got published in a venue as phenomenal as Lightspeed. I knew that they’d get it in front of a lot of readers, and I was excited to hear what people thought of it.

Reviews got off to a rocky start. Tangent Online published a vile, homophobic review of the story that basically boiled down to “ick, gay, gross, so, bad story.”

But then the story started getting tons of love!

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

Later, they included it in their “Best Short Fiction of 2014,” and said “Miller is one of only a few contemporary short story writers whose work excites me sight unseen. When I hear he has a new story out, I drop everything to go read it. “We Are the Cloud” is everything I love about Miller’s work: socially-insightful, near-future realism with raw, authentic characters and the kind of emotional payload that sneaks up behind you and stabs you in the back.”

Over at Locus, Lois Tilton called it “A darkly cynical piece that doesn’t sugar-coat its circumstances. On the one hand, it’s a happy ending for Angel, on the other, it’s not hard to see him becoming a super-villain reveling in revenge; he has a lot of revenge to take.”

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

That homophobic Tangent review, and the mild firestorm that it sparked on social media, sparked this very attentive analysis of the story and of short genre fiction in general; dude didn’t love the story, but clearly thought very deeply about it and had some interesting things to say about it and two of my favorite stories from last year: John Chu’s “The Water that Falls on you from Nowhere,” and Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories Are For Losers.”

BestSF.net called it “An excellent story from an author new to me, with a good mix of technology and social issues, and an interesting lead character.”

“57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” Wins the Shirley Jackson Award!!

Last weekend was ReaderCon, the annual conference dedicated to “imaginative” literature, which includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, and everything in between. Essentially it’s an opportunity to spend four days having wonderful conversations with wonderful people who like lots of the same things you do. Meaning it’s amazing. Except for the fact that it’s in a horrible hotel in the middle of nowhere where they charge you for wifi and there are no restaurants within walking distance and rrrrrrrrrrr it just generally sucks but that’s the subject of another blog post. ReaderCon is also where they give out the Shirley Jackson Awards, and I was nominated in the short fiction category for “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.”

I won.

This was my second ReaderCon. When I went last year I was in a pretty miserable state of mind. I had one pro sale under my belt, but it hadn’t been published yet, and anyway the story was super weird and super gay and I didn’t think people would like it. I spent the whole con in a haze of inferiority complex and hunger (literal hunger… then, as now, the hotel restaurant sported a grand total of ONE vegetarian item… and it wasn’t worth the paper it was fashioned out of). I had lots of wonderful friends at the con, including my Clarion and Altered Fluid families, but it’s hard not to feel like a nobody when surrounded by so many amazing writers—some of whom I’d been reading my whole adult life. On top of all that,  I had a novel out on submission, racking up rejections.

This year felt better. It wasn’t just the nomination, although that did put a spring in my step (but also fill me with a lot of anxiety). I’d had a good year, with awesome sales to awesome places, some of which got highly spoken of in excellent places. One of them, “The Beasts We Want to Be,” got listed as an “Honorable Mention” in two separate “Best of the Year” anthologies, and will be included in the star-studded forthcoming collection Best of Electric Velocipede.

Also, this year I had a lot more friends. We did a lot of fun stuff. Room parties, pool parties. We even had a SHHHHHHHHHHHHH FORBIDDEN CLANDESTINE MIDNIGHT SPEAKEASY READING, MC’d by Marco Palmieri, in which I got to share a stage with great writers Greg Bechtel, Brooke Bolander, Ruby Katigbak, Valya Lupescu, Stephen H. Segal, Brian Staveley, and Shveta Thankar, It was tons of fun, in front of a packed house, and my story got a lot of love in the real world and on Twitter. Someone also said my nipples looked cute. Thanks, air conditioning!

So the award was icing on the cake of what a wonderful con it was.

Community organizer that I am, I spent much of the con begging people to come to the ceremony. Halfway through I realized that had been a terrible idea, because if I lost then they’d know I was a loser. By then it was too late, and I couldn’t stop inviting people.

By the morning of the ceremony, my nervousness had gotten so pronounced that I half-hoped I wouldn’t win, so I wouldn’t have to get up and give a speech. Luckily, my category was first, which meant I didn’t have to sit there smiling politely while trying not to puke while other people got their awards.

Here is a photo of me and fellow nervous nominee Maria Dahvana Headley, before the ceremony started.
Here is a photo of me and fellow nervous nominee Maria Dahvana Headley, before the ceremony started.

Possibly the best part was hearing the whoop that went up, when my story won. A bunch of the people in that room were happy for me. And then to stand between Kit Reed and Andrea Hairston, two writers I admire the hell out of, and accept my award, felt phenomenal.

Here is a video of my acceptance speech. I mostly kept my shit together on stage (you can’t see my legs shaking…. trust me when I say they were), but as soon as I sat down I started tearing up.

My thank-yous are on the video, but let me put them in print (padded with a tiny bit more eloquence now that I’m not stammering up on stage):

“57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” is the bastard love child of Ken Liu’s “The Man Who Ended History” and Carmen Maria Machado’s “Inventory,” two stories that showed me how a wacky formal conceit can help you reach a profound emotional truth. This was my audition story for the New York City-based writer’s group Altered Fluid, and they obviously made the story awesome, otherwise I wouldn’t be standing here today. Alaya Dawn Johnson and K. Tempest Bradford made especially crucial critique points that grasped where I was going with the story and really helped me get there. Lashawn Wanak fished it out of the slushpile at Lightspeed/Nightmare, and John Joseph Adams made the crazy call to publish it, and Wendy Wagner polished down the rough edges and made it shine. I want to thank the Shirley Jackson Award jury, who are all people I hugely admire, although obviously their taste in short stories is a little questionable, and my fellow nominees are all people I’m honored to be listed alongside – especially Maria Dahvana Headley, one of the best writers in the game these days. The Clarion class of 2012 is my everything in life, especially my roommates Lisa Bolekaja and Ruby Katigbak, who traveled really far to be here this weekend with me. Most of all I want to thank my family, my mom and dad and my sister Sarah and my husband Juancy, without whom living and writing wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

The Good Kind of Anxiety

I’m beyond excited that my story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award in the Short Story category!

Excited…. and anxious. Extremely anxious…
Shirley Jackson was one of the very first writers I read who opened my eyes to the true depth of what genre fiction can accomplish – when I graduated from the Stephen King/Dean Koontz school of horror into the idea that complex human characters are more bizarre than any space alien, and human emotions are more frightening than any monster. Things that go bump in the night are scary, but human loneliness is scarier.

Oh yeah, and Joyce Carol Oates is up for the award as well. In a different category, luckily. Although the competition in my category is pretty steep too, with amazing work from two of the best folks working, Maria Dahvana Headley and Maureen McHugh, and stories from new-to-me writers Livia Llewellyn, Paul Park, and Robert Shearman.

The awards will be given out this weekend, at Readercon. Sunday morning at 11. In the meantime, I’m a tangled ball of nerves and sleeplessness. In a good way! I’m fine if one of these other excellent writers wins, but being a nominee is itself very exciting. Which is its own source of stress, especially when its 2AM and I can’t sleep because my mind won’t stop racing, but this can definitely be filed under VERY VERY VERY GOOD PROBLEMS TO HAVE.

If you’re going to be at Readercon, please consider coming to the awards ceremony to cheer me on/pray for me/offer a crying shoulder if I don’t win…

11 reasons why seeing Jurassic Park in 3D re-release was one of the best movie-theater experiences I’ve had in a long time.

11. People my age who now have kids forgot just how scary the movie is, and brought their young kids, and some of those scenes had the whole theater screaming and crying.

10. People my age forgot just how scary the movie is, and THEY THEMSELVES might have screamed at a couple moments. And by “people my age” I of course mean “me.”

9. Dozens of teenagers whistling the theme music throughout the massive crowded 42nd Street multiplex.

8. Just like when I saw it at age 14, I got to the theater late and it was opening weekend and and I had to sit in the second row. AND IT WAS AWESOME.

7. When Lex said “I happen to be a vegetarian,” at least two people yelled “DIKE.”

6. B.D. Wong is so adorable.

5. As a grown-up, I’m much more able to tune out Jeff Goldblum’s obnoxiousness.

4. #MotherFuckingImax

3. Velociraptor/Tyrannosaurus rivalry. One is the reigning queen, the other is the fresh young ingenue upstart who thinks she’s bad, with her giant razor toe claw and ABILITY TO OPEN DOORS, tryna upstage a bitch, being all “I’M THE SCARIEST!”

2. The velociraptor/tyrannosaurus rivalry gettin settled in the most spectacular dinosaur-ex-machina OH-SHIT-NO-THEY-DI’INT climax EVER.

1. I sometimes forget, but it’s a truth universally acknowledged: TYRANNOSAURUSES ARE THE BEST MONSTERS EVER AND THEY’RE REAL.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Godzilla Meditations & Moscow Dreaming & a New Ken Liu Story: My Favorite SFF Things, 8/20-8/27/2012

Here are some things that are happening in the world of SFF that made me really happy.

Always exciting news: Ken Liu has a new story coming out, in the next issue of FSF – and he published story notes about it on his blog!

Electric Velocipede has a Kickstarter project to fund the next year of its vital awesome, work, and you should go throw em some dough. Because awesome stuff doesn’t just fall out of the sky, it takes work, which takes money.

From St. Petersburg’s SF Assembly, a board game on how to be the best science fiction writer in Russia! And I’m happy to say my vestigial college Russian actually let me read much of it.

Thoughts on Godzilla: the Heisei Era, from Christopher L. Bennett, is exciting because I love getting my Godzilla nerddom bested.

SFWA breaks down SFF podcasting.

Catherynne M. Valente has a new story out in Clarkesworld.

SF Signal discusses best speculative fiction endings.

David Cronenberg has a new movie out, and it’s allegedly closer to the Spider/Crash mode (which I like but don’t love) than the History of Violence/non-SF stuff (which I got no patience for) or the Brood/Scanners/Fly gross awesome body horror/SF stuff (which I adore)… so… that, and the fact that Robert Pattinson is in it, makes me not know how I feel.

Charlie Jane Anders has a list of This Fall’s Must-Read SFF Books, and I’m most excited about Ekaterina Sedia’s “Moscow But Dreaming,” since I adore (and often write) science fiction set in or involving the Soviet Union.

The Apex Book of World SF 2, is out, and looks smashing. Here’s a great intro, from Charles Tan.

Evidently “The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens” is a thing. AND I MUST OWN IT.

Not technically science fiction, but just as awesome: human organ manufacturing inches closer to reality!!