“We Are The Cloud” is a Nebula Nominee!

Sunday, March 1st, 2015
In a truly amazing and wonderful surprise, my novelette “We Are The Cloud” is a nominee for the Nebula Award! Scrolling through the list of past nominees is like a guide to [almost] everyone who’s even remotely awesome in science fiction and fantasy, including idols of mine like Ted Chiang, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Jorge Luis Borges, William Gibson…. and I’m just stunned to be in that number.

I worked on this story from 2008 to 2013, and am more proud of it than almost anything else I’ve ever written. So I was beyond ecstatic when it was published by Lightspeed in September…

… and not entirely surprised when it turned out to be the most controversial thing I’ve done… [this from the same guy who once write a story called "Auschwitz Blowjob," which was accepted into - and then nixed by the publisher of - an anthology series that billed itself as America's "most provocative gay writing"].
SPOILER ALERT: homophobes hated “We Are The Cloud.” Tangent complained of its “offensive imagery of underage homosexuality in gratuitous proportions,” said it “needs to come with a warning.”

But it wasn’t just homophobes!

A bunch of people said it wasn’t really genre fiction, that “Science fiction elements are all but missing,” or called out its “inattentive world-building,” or said that it “doesn’t really work as a piece of traditional genre fiction as its future is dated, derivative and poorly realised”

In the end, though, the story found its audience, and I was blessed with some truly incredible reviews.

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.”

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.”

I’d love to win, but my category is PACKED with truly brilliant stories.

If you’re a SFWA member, I hope you’ll consider voting for it. But you can’t really go wrong, with a roster of nominees this incredible, and I’d be honored to lose to any of these fine folks.


I’m Eligible for Awards! And stuff.

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

2014 was a bit of a crazy wonderful whirlwind for me, writing-wise. It was also incredibly difficult on the personal tip, with some ongoing struggles that are still taking a lot out of me, so to have some bright and shining moments in my writing life made a huge difference. I am so privileged to be part of the marvelous, magnificent community of science fiction/fantasy/horror writers and readers and editors and fanpeople.

I had five pieces of short fiction published in this year. FIVE!! I made some amazing friends, and got to spend extra time with old friends.

Also? Through some cosmic bookkeeping error, I WON THE SHIRLEY JACKSON AWARD!!!

Which brings me to… awards eligibility.

My novelette “We Are The Cloud” was published in Lightspeed in September, and it might be the piece of writing I’m most proud of. It got a bunch of great reviews (and one terrible homophobic one). Also available in an audio version! It is the thing I’m proudest of, so IF ONE WERE SO INCLINED TO VOTE FOR IT FOR ANY AWARD AT ALL, I wouldn’t try to stop you. If you’re a member of SFWA, you can nominate for the Nebulas here.

As for short stories, my award-eligible pieces for 2014 are:

In my unbiased opinion, they’re not bad.

I’m also eligible for the Campbell Award! It’s my second and final year of eligibility. My hero Usman Tanveer Malik even listed me among “excellent writers” who “have emerged on the SF/ Horror scene in the last two years,” and recommended “that you explore all their available stories before nominating your favorite candidate (s).”  In fact, if I had to make a Dream Team Campbell Finalist List, it’d be Usman, Alyssa Wong, Carmen Maria Machado, Henry Lien, Lara Elena Donnelly, Lisa Bolekaja… and, uh… me! … and a bunch of other awesome writers I am sure I am forgetting about. AND I’M SORRY.

So… there’s that. So much great short SFFFH fiction got published in 2014, and I’m excited and honored to be in that mix. And I really appreciate anyone who thinks something of mine is award-worthy!

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

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

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 itA 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.”

“Kenneth: A User’s Manual” is out now at Strange Horizons!

Monday, December 8th, 2014

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.

The full story is here.
And there’s an audio version here!

I’m super grateful to the great folks at Strange Horizons for encouraging me to do something so crazy with this short story!

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.

Recent Reviews

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
After a long fallow period, a whole bunch of my short stories are coming out between now and the end of the year, and some of them have racked up some nice reviews.

Also, Jeffrey Ford is one of my favorite writers, and he was my first-week Clarion instructor, so imagine my delight when he highlighted me and my beloved Lisa Bolekaja as part of this recent Locus Roundtable on Ten Exciting Writers!

Tangent Online had some very lovely things to say about my story in Shimmer:
“Allosaurus Burgers,” a modern science fiction story by Sam J. Miller, tells the story of Matt, a young boy who lives near a farm where a real allosaurus is discovered. Living alone with his mother, a tall woman who works in a slaughterhouse, Matt’s view of the world is wrapped up in his mother’s opinions and prejudices. She towers over him like a god, and yet when he goes to see the allosaurus he comes face to face with something even larger. When his mother loses control after dealing with Matt’s father, it is up to Matt to try and protect her, and in so doing he finally sees her as a person, as capable of error. 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.”
io9 highlighted “Allosaurus Burgers” in their new (AWESOME) short fiction spotlight:
“…Reading this story right after the last one highlighted some (unintentional) synchonicities between the stories. They’re both about small communities filled with people and families who have known each other since forever, a fact that drives the character’s motivations more than they might know. Both stories feature a beast that disrupts the normal course of life, though in this one the disruption is far more evident, and more parable-tastic. And once again I love the voice in this one. Sam J Miller’s name should be familiar to fans of the dark fantastic since he recently won a Shirley Jackson Award for this story.
This review of “Wilde Stories 2014″ highlighted my entry:

“Following is another excellent story. “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” by Sam J. Miller strongly stands out with a unique format that flows effortlessly, and memorable young adult characters, outstanding speculative fiction elements, gay theme, and a plot focused on friendship, bullying, revenge and betrayal.”

Over at Locus, Lois Tilton reviews TWO of my short stories that came out in the past month, “Songs Like Freight Trains,” in Interzone (”The prose is appropriately evocative, the premise compelling”), and “We Are The Cloud,” in Lightspeed (”A darkly cynical piece that doesn’t sugar-coat its circumstances”).
This random review of Allosaurus Burgers is only one sentence long: “I didn’t really get it.” And a rating of 1 out of 5 stars! I can take it.

Violin in a Void” does a great short fiction roundup, and they have nice things to say:
My favourite story for July – and one of my favourites this year – was “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides by Sam J. Miller, from Nightmare Magazine. The story won a Shirley Jackson Award, and I can see why. It’s about Jared, a gay teenager, who has been viciously bullied by six boys at school. However, he discovers that he has a unique ability that he can use to take revenge, with the help of his best friend Anchal. What makes the story particularly interesting is that the whole thing is told in a list of 57 items – the reasons for the Slate Quarry suicides. It builds quite slowly, but the gruesome ending is just superb.”
Tor.com’s “Queering SFF” reviewed “57 Reasons” as well…
“57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” by Sam J. Miller is another strong piece, though much more on the “horror” end of things—as, frankly, many of the stories in this volume are. (And the Wilde Stories collections also tend to be, across the years.) It’s a list-story, which I tend to be a little iffy about as a form, but it works here reasonably well. The protagonist is simultaneously sympathetic and terrible, and the ending of the narrative is fairly brutal; it wasn’t entirely what I expected, but it did fit the piece. The title also gains a disturbing resonance in its implications about the deaths: that people think that it was suicide, when it was anything but.”

“Allosaurus Burgers” is out now from Shimmer

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Issue #20 of the phenomenal speculative fiction magazine Shimmer is out, and I’m so proud and excited because it contains my short story “Allosaurus Burgers.”

I wrote this story during week five of Clarion 2012. It benefited immensely from the insights and critiques of my Brother and Sister Robots, as well as anchor team extraordinaire Holly Black and Cassandra Clare…. and after that it made the rounds for a little while, racking up rejections and getting some good notes from editors that helped me make it extra awesome. Also my mom and dad and sister and husband read it. And they made it awesome too.

There’s an interview with me here, about the story.

I’m happy this one is out in the world. Mostly because I love dinosaurs. But also because I really like this story.

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

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

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

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

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…

In Which I Talk About Myself: The My Writing Process Blog Tour!!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

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.

I’m “Recommended Reading” in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

I bought the new edition of Rich Horton’s consistently-excellent “Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy” anthology because (1) it’s consistently excellent, and (2) it had a story by my hero/ine Alaya Dawn Johnson that I hadn’t read before. So imagine my surprise when I finished the story and dried my tears and browsed through the “Recommended Reading” at the back of the book, and found my story “The Beasts We Want To Be,” from the final issue of Electric Velocipede!

Now, of course it would have been awesome to have my story ACTUALLY be in the anthology, but this recommended reading list is some pretty exquisite company to be in! Especially considering that two of the very best stories I read all year - Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling,” and Vylar Kaftan’s “The Weight of the Sunrise” - are also there. Other phenomenal writers that I’m honored to be listed alongside include Charlie Jane Anders, Indrapramit Das, Aliette de Bodard, Jeffrey Ford, Theodora Goss, Maria Dhavana Headley, Matthew Kressel, Ken Liu, Sofia Samatar, Ken Schneyer, Michael Swanwick, Rachel Swirsky, Genevieve Valentine, and Carrie Vaughn.

In two weeks, it will be two years since I went away to the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Workshop in San Diego. To find myself listed in a best-of anthology alongside TWO of my Clarion teachers (Jeff and Ted) is the kind of bizarre wonderful surprise that almost kinda sorta soothes the lifelong-sadness-burn of returning to the real world when Clarion ends.

A new Clarion class is about to embark on the same adventure. I can’t wait to see their names in the best-of anthologies of years to come!

#SSS: Short Story Saturdays!!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

My resolution for 2014 was to read more short stories. And I’ve mostly been able to stick to it, because (1) apps like Pocket make it easy to save and organize and carry around all the excellent free short fiction that gets published on the web every week, (2) short stories are more suitable for treadmill reading than novels, and (3) unlike other resolutions (eating healthy, learning a language, being a good person etc), reading short stories is really really fun.

But when you read good writing, you wanna talk about it. And let’s face it, social media conversations don’t exactly blossom over short-form spec-fic the way they do over HuffPo articles and the latest celebrity shenanigans.

So when Daniel Jose Elder mentioned on Twitter that he’s “been pondering how to generate more buzz/conversation around short stories on social media..” that sounded like exactly the sort of thing I’d been thinking about. And of course the answer to any question on Twitter is: make a hashtag.

So Daniel, Lisa Bolekaja, and I came up with Short Story Saturday: #SSS. And then we started twatting at our writer friends and heroes, trying to build some buzz about it. And some awesome people got excited, and started retweeting us. And everybody knows it’s an ironclad law of the internet that once Cory Doctorow retweets something, it’s officially a thing.

And now we need you!! Let’s talk short stories, this Saturday.

Have you read a decent short story in the past week? Tell us all about it on Twitter, using hashtag #SSS to celebrate Short Story Saturday!

Vote for me, for the Locus Award!

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

My short story “The Beasts We Want To Be,” published in the final issue of Electric Velocipede, is on the ballot for the 43rd annual Locus Awards. Please check out my story, and vote for it if you like it! Deadline for voting is April 15th. Anyone can vote, but votes from Locus subscribers count double.

Some awesome people had some awesome things to say about it -

Gardner Dozois wrote of “The Beasts We Want to Be”:

Electric Velocipede 26 and 27 each … contained one of the best stories of the year…. The best story in Electric Velocipede 27, the magazine’s final issue, is “The Beasts We Want to Be” by new writer Sam J. Miller, a dark, brutal story of the kind of men produced by harrowing conditioning sessions with Skinner Boxes and electroshock therapy in an alternate Russia just after the Communist Revolution and how those men struggle to reconcile what they have become with what they once were.

Locus included it in their 2013 Recommended Reading List.

The ChiZine blog called it “heartbreaking,” and “a searing critique of society’s uncompromising expectation of a specific kind of masculinity,” and that while the protagonist “learns about beauty, love and the dangers of the Pavlov Boxes… in the end none of these messages have half the strength of the genuine grief at lost friendship that seeps off the page.”

Rich Horton wrote:

“The Beasts We Want to Be” by new writer Sam J. Miller [is] a strong SF horror story set in an alternate post-Revolution Russia told by a “Broken” soldier who has been conditioned in a “Pavlov’s Box” to serve the goals of the Revolution as he commandeers the artwork of an aristocratic family, then finds himself drawn to save a woman of that family from reconditioning, and then to save a painting of her husband.  Very dark stuff.

In her 2013 year in review for Locus, Lois Tilton called it “a strongly realistic piece of human loss.”

The online ballot is here; once again, the deadline is April 15th. Please check out my story, and vote for it if you like it! And then read tons of the other stuff on there. Everything on that list that I’ve read has been phenomenal, including stuff by friends and heroes like Ted Chiang, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Matthew Kressel, Jeffrey Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, Amahl El-Mohtar, Ken Liu, Aliette De Bodard, Indrapramit Das, James Patrick Kelly, Charlie Jane Anders, Christopher Barzak, Catherynne Valente, Kenneth Schneyer, Genevieve Valentine, and so many more.

I’ll be Part of the Lost & Found Show’s “Video Games” Edition!

Monday, March 10th, 2014

This Wednesday I’ll be reading at the Lost & Found Show’s Video Games Edition, at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in New York City.

I have a well-documented obsession with old-school Nintendo games, so  I was excited to be asked to participate. And I love how the line-up of writers includes folks from lots of different artistic backgrounds.

The Facebook event is here; see below for all the details!

The Lost & Found Show’s “Video Games” Edition – Wednesday March 12th!


Peter Olson (Marvel, UCB, Spike TV)
Sam J. Miller (The Rumpus, Minnesota Review)
Matt London (Tor.com, Fantasy Magazine)
Anna Roisman (MTV, Huffington Post, College Humor)

Musical Guest:

The Royal Bees

Special Trivia Sponsored by:

Games For Change

Hosted by Daniel Guzman

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
(Doors 7:00PM) 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM

The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker St
(between Sullivan St. and Thompson St)
New York, NY 10012

Nearest Trains:
W 4th St (A, B, C, D, E, F, M)
8 St – NYU (N, R)
Bleecker St (6)
Broadway-Lafayette (B, D, F, M)


Each month, we bring together authors, bloggers, comedians, and performers to share fiction and nonfiction stories involving a theme object that could be found in a lost and found box. We’ve featured burlesque stars, magicians, Moth Grand Slam winners, actors, someone’s mom, and a ukulele player.

For a list of upcoming theme objects, or to submit a story for consideration, visit:
Twitter: @lostfoundshow

Book Reviews, by Me.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

I’m excited to share that I’ve joined the crew of the phenomenal YA book review site Guys Lit Wire!!

My first review went live last week - check out my thoughts on the astonishingly beautiful Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

If you’re not familiar with GLW, do check it out. There’s nothing chauvinistic about its focus on teen boy readers - it’s really about recognizing that it’s very difficult to get teen boys excited about books, and that they often connect to books very differently from young women readers.

I’m a fan of anything that helps teachers/parents/librarians/whoever put great books in the hands of the young men in their lives. Especially gay and trans boys who are particularly hungry for books that reflect their own experiences. I remember how much it meant to Teenage Me, catching a glimpse of myself in a book. With all the exciting and diverse protagonists populating YA fiction these days - and all the great tools for hyping young people to books and giving them space to talk about them - it’s exciting to be part of that work.

Blogging Brilliant Stories: “Karina Who Kissed Spacetime,” by Indrapramit Das, and “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere,” by John Chu

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

First of all, I owe this blog post to Brit Mandelo, whose recent Tor.com Short Fiction Spotlight hit my RSS reader with perfect timing, considering that my New Year’s Resolution was to READ MORE SHORT STORIES!! Which comes with a corollary commitment: to TALK about the stories I read, especially when they’re amazing, and to do that on my blog as a way to shout out awesome shit as well as force myself to put into words what works for me in great stories, which often make sense on an emotional level but not always on a verbal one. I tore right into Brit’s suggestions, and my life was much enriched.

So, borrowing Brit’s thunder, I’ll do two stories here, instead of my usual one, and hope that’ll kickstart my “Blogging Brilliant Stories” for 2014.

In 2012 I read and loved Indrapramit Das’s “Weep For Day,” in Asimov’s, so my eye is always out for more stuff from him (also, he’s a Clarion West grad, so we are telepathically linked through the Greater Clarion Collective Hive Mind). When Brit hyped Karina Who Kissed Spacetime (originally in Apex) I checked it out right away. It’s a beautifully imaged, richly felt flash of feeling and scene, capturing the adolescent head-rush joy-agony of first love so marvelously that it almost feels like the speculative element (the protagonist’s first love is capable of shattering the spacetime continuum and sending him dancing through time) might just as well be an expression of a young person’s euphoric hyperbolic way of seeing the world and experiencing emotion. That’s what I think great spec-fic should do: use ridiculous lies to dramatize and underscore something fundamentally true about the human condition; in this case, the worldbending intensity of teen love.

John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere” is a near-perfect SFF story, using a totally fresh and wacky SF conceit (one day the laws of physics change and ice-cold water falls on you from nowhere when you tell a lie; also, attempts to game the system and equivocate may result in permanent insanity) to explore and illuminate the relationship between two boyfriends as one of them grapples with whether & how to come out to his parents. Phenomenal set-up of both the “magic” system and the characters; I was totally crushed out on the boyfriend. Then we travel home for the holidays, as the main character resolves to finally tell his parents what’s up. There’s a level on which its protagonist’s family drama, struggling to come out to his parents even as his sister is constantly blocking them from being alone with them, becomes a little comedy-of-errors, but I’m not sure that’s a demerit. I think it speaks to the strength of the story that it can so robustly deploy all the complex ramifications of a new and exciting speculative concept and then move on to use it to explore some fascinatingly real interpersonal dynamics. So even if the family nuance elements didn’t always work for me personally as well as the relationship between the narrator and his boyfriend, they do work. I suspect that, as someone who is IN an intercultural gay marriage, those moments of family tension and terror and magic and wonderfulness might in fact have worked too well for me.

A final note on “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere” - sometimes you see the ending coming, and it ruins the story. BUT sometimes you hope the story will end a certain way, and when it does it’s a wonderful thing. That’s what happened with this one. I won’t spoil it, but there was a point 3/4 of the way through where I thought “ooooooh it would be so awesome if THIS THING happened,” and THAT THING happened, really nicely.

So, here’s to excellent stories, and reading more of them in 2014, and talking about them, and blogging about them. And oh yeah writing them too maybe.