“Kenneth: A User’s Manual” is out now at Strange Horizons!
My new story “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” was published on World AIDS Day by Strange Horizons, and I’m so excited about this one… mostly because it has a whole bunch of original illustrations of mine! And some hypertext ancillary materials. Also by me.
You often hear the adage that good science fiction is about the present, even when it’s set in the future. And this story is an excellent example of that. The setting is clearly the future, near or far, it’s hard to tell, but the sorrow and longing and anger and memory trap illuminated so well in the words belongs firmly in the present. In this narrow band of time.
Mixing text and illustrations to subtle and devastating effect, Sam J. Miller‘s “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” offers a warning and guidelines for a sort of artificial man, and in so doing offers a different sort of warning and guidelines for living on where others have not. Short and interspersed with sketchy illustrations of Kenneth, a sort of idealized man from the height of gay club culture, the manual offers users tips to properly use Kenneth and avoid harm. The story is cleverly layered, a statement issued in response to complaints about the model, a business memo but also a sort of manifesto from the designer, from the man responsible for creating Kenneth out of his own need to capture something beautiful from the past. For all his reaching, though, the author of the manual ends his guide with the realization that what Kenneth does is not offer comfort, exactly, or release, but rather requires the user to face the stark realities of life. Concise and wrenching, the story uses its form to further its message, to amazing results.
File under: New Publications