Here are some of the stories I’m most proud of, spanning fifteen years. Twenty-five of them are available to read for free online!
From the Asimov’s Podcast:
Aran’s first vacation—in basically forever—involves twenty-six gate-hops and a fun entanglement with a couple of friendly arms dealers. Any sex worker with half a brain peddles information, but this time the intel leads Aran down a windy path with clues from his home-world and everything he left behind. What’s a rent-boy to do? Find out in “Planetstuck.”
Listen to the full story, read by me!!
“Let All The Children Boogie“
As the Cold War stalls and the threat of nuclear warfare dominates the news, small-town misfits Laurie and Fell bond over a shared love of music and the mystery of the erratic radio messages that hint at the existence of a future worth reaching out for.
“A charming sci-fi short story about love, radio waves, and David Bowie.” – BoingBoing
“Starman” is one of my five favorite songs, but it’s also an example of brilliant science fiction storytelling. Two teenagers tuning in to late-night radio pick up an extraterrestrial message of hope and revolution, a message that only the young can receive. It packs so much into so few words, and I’ve always dreamed of finding a way to tell that story at greater length. And I think I finally succeeded.
“This is a wonderful, fanciful story about a queerness that can’t hide and a connection that cannot be lost.” – Meg Elison
“Occupy Vogue Italia“
I am insanely proud to have written the cover story for the January 2021 “Animal Issue” of Vogue Italia. This is the animal uprising story of my dreams!! (and you can click here to read it in English)
“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.”
What if the hate and rage that has consumed America attained sentience? What if an app woke up, and started using Big Data’s massive stores of info to manipulate people into horrific violence?
That’s what this story is about. There’s also an interview with me about it.
“Well that’s fucking terrifying, uncomfortable, and upsetting. But so good. Shit. A story of virality, and technology, and hurt.” – Quick Sip Reviews
“A frightfully timely tale of social-media fearmongering and the incitement of mindless violence. A sophisticated app taps into humanity’s worst impulses, the hatred and dread that cancerously riddles the body politic. In the “Author Spotlight” for the story, Miller admits that he aimed to create a “creepy dread-filled atmosphere” and flat out “scare the shit out of people.” At that he has succeeded brilliantly: this might be the most disturbing, unnerving work of horror fiction that I have read in years.” – Hundredfold Horror
Banal Sunday brunch turns ominous when an AR layer intrudes terrifyingly into real life…
“A digital de-extinction, product of a Russian troll farm or black-ops Pentagon cyberterror legion. Weaponized intrusion software given reptilian form. Oiled glistening flesh; eyes of fractal fire. A calling card, at first—an insanely detailed GIF to leave behind at the scene of data breaches and other mischief. But growing more sophisticated with time, marching forward on the ever-advancing cutting edge of internet malevolence.”
“Creepy and nice way of showing how tech integration, lax parenting, and malevolent malware can all add up to a horrifying collective.” – Quick Sip Reviews
“Sam J. Miller’s story about an immersive digital world run amok has stuck to me for weeks. No pun intended, but I can’t get it out of my head.” – Tor.com
“The Nation of the Sick“
Included in the 2020 edition of MIT Press’s fabled Twelve Tomorrows series – and, yeah, that title was a lot less unsettling in the pre-pandemic days when I wrote the story.
“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.” – Lightspeed Magazine
Included in THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY 2020, ed. Rich Horton.
“Five stars… perfectly chilling.” – Rocket Stack Rank
“…A first-rate horror story. Adney and her boyfriend Teek are on vacation in Italy, and she’s wondering if their relationship is real besides the sex. Then a somewhat creepy older man approaches them with an offer – he’ll pay her for an hour of Teek’s time. Somehow Adney convinces herself to accept the offer – Teek apparently doesn’t mind… but this can’t end well, can it? This is an example of a writer using a fairly familiar idea (which I won’t spoil) so artfully that it becomes newly effective.” – Rich Horton, in Locus Magazine
“Scary good.” – Amazing Stories
“Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart“
- Included in THE YEAR’S BEST DARK FANTASY AND HORROR
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.
“Showcases the author’s expertise with character, while developing a remarkable intimacy between reader and narrative within a few paragraphs… It examines the hyperbole of cinema against the fantastic aspects of the real. This story is about heartbreak and its consequences, as well as wartime anxiety and pain. Perhaps above all, it’s about strange but heartfelt connections.” – Locus Magazine
“… a defiant, quiet story that still carries a power and impact, and you should definitely check this one out. A fantastic read!” – Quick Sip Reviews
“This story is both very heartfelt and original, with an ending that’s chilling in how comforting it is. That may sound confusing, but trust me, it’s appropriate.” – Horror Buzz
“It Was Saturday Night, I Guess That Makes It Alright“
A story of sex and resistance in a grim America where Prince is illegal and Big Brother is listening. According to Publishers Weekly, this anthology is a “bold collection… full of hope, strength, and courage, and will be welcomed by readers looking for emotional sustenance and validation of their experiences in a challenging time.”
“… Of particular note is Sam Miller’s “It Was Saturday Night, I Guess That Makes It All Right,” in which a re-closeted gay man in a homophobic, surveillance-culture United States discovers a radical, magical transformative power in orgasm… spreading like an inverse HIV to pass resistance from one queer person to another, creating a network of rekindled agency rooted in desire across the landscape of post-industrial upstate New York.” – NPR
“A wonderfully trippy ride through a dystopian future filled with strange sexual encounters and a society that revolves around surveillance.” – Reviews and Robots
- Published in French translation by Editions Albin Michel as Le Velage
- Included in THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, V.33 (edited by Gardner Dozois)
- … & in BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE YEAR (edited by Neil Clarke)
- … & also in THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY OF THE YEAR VOL.10 (edited by Jonathan Strahan).
- Also re-published in translation in Czech & Hebrew.
“A heartbreaking vision of parenting gone hopelessly wrong in a warmed Arctic.” – Publishers Weekly
“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.” – Gardner Dozois, Locus
“Father and son story in a near future when the Arctic melting and the rise of the oceans has led to a flood of refugees. This scenario is the most science-fictional in the issue, realistically depicting likely consequences of global climate change.” – Lois Tilton, Locus
“Dom is desperate to change his son’s opinion. And to accomplish this he … does something which will haunt me for years to come. 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.” – Jason Sanford
“The fourth really strong story from Miller I’ve read in the last 12 months or so. It’s his first for Asimov’s, and I would imagine/hope the first of many. As with his other stories he creates really believable, complex, and flawed characters, in a gritty, near future setting.” – Best SF
“The fact that the story hurts (and keeps hurting) is not an argument against it. All the greatest literature is tragedy. People use “tragedy” fairly loosely, but “Calved” is the authentic article.” – Greg Hullender, Rocket Stack Rank
“Things With Beards”
- Nebula Award Nominee for Best Short Story
- Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Best Short Story
- Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award Finalist
Semi-sequel to The Thing, using John Carpenter’s gnarly monster to tell a story of AIDS, gay liberation, police brutality, & passing. Included in THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, V.34 (edited by Gardner Dozois), and THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY OF THE YEAR VOL.11 (edited by Jonathan Strahan). and YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, 2017 Ed. (edited by Rich Horton), and BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE YEAR – VOL. 2 (edited by Neil Clarke).
“When MacReady is not MacReady, or when MacReady is simply not, he never remembers it after. The gaps in his memory are not mistakes, not accidents. The thing that wears his clothes, his body, his cowboy hat, it doesn’t want him to know it is there. So the moment when the supply ship crewman walked in and found formerly-frozen MacReady sitting up—and watched MacReady’s face split down the middle, saw a writhing nest of spaghetti tentacles explode in his direction, screamed as they enveloped him and swiftly started digesting—all of that is gone from MacReady’s mind.”
“The story is a tangle of metaphors that knot perfectly together. …joins others of Miller’s, such as last year’s ‘‘The Heat of Us’’, as a startling and intelligent engagement with queer history through a science fictional lens.” – Locus
“As is typical of Miller’s work, “Things With Beards” delivers a satisfying emotional punch, and serves as an excellent example of contemporary fiction in conversation with a SFF classic.” – Apex Magazine
“It’s fucking amazing; Where my own “The Things” played with biology and the missionary impulse, Miller’s riffs off the same source material to more overtly political ends, and does it masterfully… TWB can’t seem to go for a single paragraph without making some new, visceral, political observation/metaphor, without ever once getting preachy (which is why I usually steer clear of this sort of story). Not to mention the prose rocks.” – Peter Watts, author of “The Things” (Hugo/Locus/Theodore Sturgeon Award Nominee; Shirley Jackson Award winner; BSFA award finalist)
Also available in audio format, read by the phenomenal Kate Baker!
“Red Lizard Brigade“
“Soviet scientists discover a way to reach through space and time. This technology brings dinosaurs to the present day as weapons. The main characters are two soldiers in the Red Army trained to work with the animals. They become lovers, but come into conflict when one wishes to change how the dinosaurs are used. The result is treason and tragedy… a powerful tale about the tension between love and duty.” – Tangent
“… An emotionally devastating piece about loyalty and the desire for freedom, and the fear that comes from having survived something very difficult and not knowing where loyalty should be given.” – Quick Sip Reviews
“First, I loved this story’s setup and the worldbuilding… Second, this story is simply a well-crafted delight… the story is perfectly ordered, hooking readers with a brilliant setup, pausing briefly to flesh out the worldbuilding and character relationships, and then bringing it all together for a heart-wrenching and darkly gorgeous climax.” – The Skiffy and Fanty Show
“Angel, Monster, Man”
- Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Best Novelette
- Included in THE YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION, VOLUME 4, edited by Helen Marshall & Michael Kelly
- Included in WILDE STORIES 2017: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, edited by Steve Berman
It’s the height of the AIDS crisis. Medications that will help manage the illness are a decade away. Three friends, gay men overwhelmed with rage and sadness, who’ve inherited suitcases and boxes and garbage bags full of unpublished work from fellow writers killed by the virus, invent Tom Minniq: a ghost writer, a collective pseudonym under which to publish all the orphaned work of brilliant writers whose careers were cut short. And while Tom becomes a literary superstar, he doesn’t stay on the page. And he starts acting out their anger in ways that they couldn’t anticipate, and can’t control. And each of them, in turn, is visited by a very different Tom Minniq.
“…brilliantly conceived and well-executed… The barbs in this story are sharp, and you won’t know you’ve bled out until the last word.” – Out in Print
“I loved the beauty of the story, with fine, delicate, ugly language… so full of lines I’d like to quote that if I quoted them all, I’d just be reproducing the entire story.” – SFF Reviews
Podcast of the story is here, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki!
There’s also an interview with me about the story, here, in which I say some pretentious stuff like this:
“The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History”
- World Fantasy Award Nominee
- Included in BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2016, edited by Karen Joy Fowler and John Joseph Adams.
“This searing story… reimagines the Stonewall Riots, a landmark in American LGBTQ history. From multiple viewpoints, Miller retells that night at the Stonewall Inn as a supernatural event where the collective rage of the participants sets off pyrokinesis.” – Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
“… 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
“I found this short story even more impressive than “We Are the Cloud” in its execution, pace, and use of voice. I love reading Miller make fantasy out of collective action, seeing super powers not in individuals, but in mobilisations of community.” – Amal El-Mohtar
“The Beasts We Want to Be”
Soviet human experimentation, brotherly love, bloody revenge, and a maybe-magical painting. Originally published in Electric Velocipede #27, December 2013
Reviewed in Locus Magazine, who named it a “Recommended” story!! “…The heart of it is this: How can ordinary people be brought to do acts of routine brutality? Or that there is something human in the worst of us?…” Later also cited in their year-end best short fiction post.
Listed as “Recommended Reading” in Rich Horton’s “Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014,” and an “Honorable Mention” in Gardner Dozois’s “Year’s Best Science Fiction – Volume 31”
“When Your Child Strays From God”
“… 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
“It’s kind of unnerving how well the story explores the intricacies of the woman’s relationship with her son, the woman’s own self-image and outlook on life. It would have been easy to make her something of a monster. Or, I guess, it does make her something of a monster, but a very human one, one that is easily recognizable… It’s an amazing story, people, and you need to go out and read it now. Go, go and read and I will find a tissue and probably something to drink. Because damn.” – Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews
“The story hooks us with its humor and then moves into vulnerable territory in order to make its point… moving and lovely.” – Tangent
Also available in audio format, read by the amazing Kate Baker!
“Making Us Monsters“
Co-written with Lara Elena Donnelly! Who very brilliantly summarized it by saying “It’s the anti-fascist gay time traveling epistolary WWI novelette about dangerous medical experimentation that you’ve all been waiting for!”
Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were real people, poets and soldiers in World War One, whose brilliant work was some of the most important and influential culture to come out of that conflict. They were also lovers, until Owen was killed in battle just days before the Armistice. For our story, Lara and I imagined a correspondence between them… that takes place decades after Owen’s death. Lara wrote the Sassoon letters, and I was Wilfred!
“a breathtaking and beautiful story about history and poetry and love and war… It’s touching and it’s shocking and it’s an amazing story.” – Quick Sip Reviews
“The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter“
Tor.com says this story is about:
“A group of friends, a pair of lovers, and the tussle between love, addiction, and what comes next. Otto, a former addict, grateful and indebted to his lover Trevor, is faced with temptation and the threat of disaster, but he’s fighting it. Fighting it in a future where matter can be reprogrammed and anything could happen, good or bad.”
“This piece is a particularly eye-catching one… sharp voice, fascinating sci-fi worldbuilding as backdrop for a perfectly human story, the exploration of people’s failings and, in all honesty, sex.” – Strange Horizons
“Plus there are giant kaiju that destroy New York. So it’s got a lot going on. It’s a moving piece about longing and desire and shame and abuse, and it’s very much worth checking out. Go read it!” – Quick Sip Reviews
“The Ways Out“
A government agent in a grim future is tailing a ten-year-old skateboarder girl who has potentially dangerous psionic abilities. “It’s a story reflecting on prejudice, but also a story of hope, fighting back… one of found family and people overcoming loneliness” – Apex Magazine. Rocket Stack Rank said the end reveal is “delicious.” And Tangent said: “I was rooting for the characters after seeing snippets of their conversations and hints of their inner goals, and wanted them to beat the system spying on them.”
Podcast of the story is here, read by the great Kate Baker!
“We Are the Cloud”
- Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novelette
- Theodore Sturgeon Award Nominee
- Included in BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2015.
“Miller has a nearly unparalleled knack for writing heart-wrenching characters and painful personal attachments.” –Charlotte Ashley, Apex Magazine.
“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.” – Amal El-Mohtar
“A story of the sort that gets the Sad and Rabid Puppies foaming.” – Happiness is Free SF
“A darkly cynical piece that doesn’t sugar-coat its circumstances.” – Locus
“57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides”
- Winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Short Fiction
- Included in YEAR’S BEST YA SPECULATIVE FICTION 2013
- Also included in WILDE STORIES 2014: BEST GAY SPECULATIVE FICTION
Nightmare Magazine Author Spotlight interview with me.
Shirley Jackson Awards spotlight interview with me.
SF Signal interview with me. about this story
Also available in an audio version (recorded by an actual actor who, among other things, has played Nazis on two separate Star Trek series).
“Ghosts of Home”
“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
“The main thing I love about this story is that it empathizes with a type of person who doesn’t often get empathy. We often hear about those mysterious people out there who vote against their own interests or support politicians, policies, and official actions that harm them personally or harm their community. Writing such people off is easy. Understanding how it is they got to that place isn’t, and that’s one of the things Miller tackles here. Highly recommended.” – K. Tempest Bradford, in io9
This story also got a nice review from Tangent.
Interview with me about this story is here.
- Included in Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Two
- Reprinted in Clarkesworld Magazine.
- Included on the 2016 Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List.
In the far future, orcas keep the remnants of humanity technologically stunted, to prevent them from doing further harm to the planet. Adze is devout, happy to devote her life to serving the Gods, but she’s in love with Kelb, who is intent on destroying them…
“To Die Dancing”
“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. Clive is attending Degradation Eve, a night of debauchery to show the conservative masses the horrors of the past, to scare them into never wanting a return to the days when people just danced and were free… 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
Highlighted by io9, who said “love the voice“!
“Weaving a complex family life without succumbing to cliche or simplification, the story shows the characters in all their richness, and handles a pivotal moment in a child’s life with art and power.” – Tangent
An interview with me about this story is here.
Horror After 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror
Critical anthology, co-edited by myself and the amazing Aviva Briefel.
The first major exploration of the horror film genre through the lens of 9/11 and the subsequent transformation of American and global society.
Reviewed in The New Republic, and featured in New York Magazine‘s Approval Matrix as “brilliant/lowbrow”!!
“The Heart of the Female Warrior: An Interview with Mary McDonnell”
I had the incredible honor of interviewing the actress who played President Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica, my favorite character from one of my two favorite shows ever, and I got to ask her about the show, the character, and so much more. And she even asked me what I thought about the series finale!
“Artists really grapple, in general, with a sense of purpose and a sense of responsibility… my talent seems to spring to life more readily when it’s being asked to serve a story that tries to honestly reflect what we really are as humankind, and what we might be, and tries to take responsibility for some of the past, and stand squarely in it.”
Told by a little Jewish boy during the Odessa Pogrom of 1905, a sort of meta-Isaak-Babel piece, if Babel was writing with a full knowledge of all the horrors that the Soviet 30s and 40s would bring.