“Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller–a short story bursting at the seams / “Things with Beards” de Sam J. Miller – un cuento lleno a reventar

Note: This is the second review of a short story nominated for the 2017 Nebula Awards. You can see all the nominees here, and my earlier review of “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad here.

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Sam J. Miller (and friend?)

So here’s the short version of “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller: Protagonist Jimmy (Jim?) McReady has returned to New York in the summer of 1983 after a mysterious end to his work at a research station in Antarctica. He meets an old friend who’s involved with an underground group bent on payback for the cops harassing and abusing blacks. McReady is gay and white, and he identifies with his friend’s political agenda despite his Irish family, some of whom are cops. During the course of the story McReady discovers that he and his friend Hugh are infected with what is called at that time — the “gay cancer”. He also intuits that he is inhabited by a monster of some sort that claims great stretches of his memory and also attacks and inhabits practically everyone with whom McReady comes into close contact.

No, this is not a novel. It’s a freaking short story. Continue reading

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“The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” by Sam J. Miller imagines the potential force at the nexus of rage, sorrow and love / “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” de Sam J. Miller imagina la fuerza potencial del nexo entre la rabia, la tristeza y el amor

This is the fourth review of the nominees for the World Fantasy Award for best short fiction in 2015. Winners will be announced in October. Other reviews are herehere and here. The Spanish translation following this post is by Daniela Toulemonde.

The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” by Sam J. Miller relates an alternative history of the Stonewall riots in 1969 and the mix of tensions that led up to the initial rebellion. Employing a creative story structure that features passages from oral interviews with people at the event, Miller doesn’t focus on a new timeline, but explores the mystery of an imagined trigger event on a night in history that actually did mark a significant change in the LGBTQ movement.

Readers are introduced to several characters at the Stonewall that night. One of the primary characters is Craig Perry, a gay black man furious with a world that has imposed such tremendous loneliness upon him and injustice on the people he identifies with. The other central character is Ben Lazzarra, a cop who is unable to tell even his twin brother (also a cop) that he is gay. The story evolves as each character describes the events leading up to their decision to go to the club and what they experienced the night of the trigger incident. The compiler of these interviews, a former NY Times reporter, narrates the story from a distance, explaining the significance of the raid for the movement and the inability to authenticate the supernatural occurrences that witnesses reported, while also repenting for her own culpability in the oppression of LGBTQ people. Continue reading

Finalists announced for the World Fantasy Awards

World Fantasy Award ballots for works published in 2015 have been announced. The awards will be presented during the World Fantasy Convention, to be held October 27-30, 2016 in Columbus Ohio. Below are the finalists for short fiction:

  • “The Neurastheniac”, Selena Chambers (Cassilda’s Song, collection)
  • “Pockets”, Amal El-Mohtar (Uncanny 1-2/15)
  • “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History”, Sam J. Miller (Uncanny 1-2/15)
  • “The Deepwater Bride”, Tamsyn Muir (F&SF 7-8/15)
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers”, Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15) Reviewed here.

I’ll get started on reviewing these just as soon as I finish chapter 38 and get my backlogged reviews posted, which means it will probably be a couple of weeks. I’m having trouble keeping track of time this summer. I suspect I may have been cursed by a daayan while in India. It’s either that or blogger’s block, and I will take a witch’s curse over that any day.

Nebula nominee review: “When Your Child Strays from God” by Sam J. Miller / Reseña del nominado a los Premios Nébula: “When Your Child Strays from God” de Sam J. Miller

This is the sixth and final review of the nominees in the short story category for the 2015 Nebula Awards. Spanish translation below is by Daniela Toulemonde.

heartwebWhen Your Child Strays from God” by Sam J. Miller is set in some parallel universe where Dr. Seuss books, Barbie, the religious right and Dateline exist along with super, mind-altering drugs. People are taking hallucinogenic drugs that put them into something like a dream state where they can influence the hallucinations of other people. As someone who has grown up in the networked world might expect, this drug experience is called “webbing”. People who panic while on the drug results experience something akin to a psychotic breakdown that keeps them trapped in their hallucinations.

All of this is background for a story about a mother’s love for a wayward, teenage son and her strange trip toward forgiveness. Voicing the frustrations and fears of a middle-aged woman who decides to partake of the drug, Miller manages to not only make all of this totally believable, but makes Mom’s trip absolutely fun to read. Continue reading