Altered Fluid: Home of the Altered Fluid writers group

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 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.” 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.”

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“Subduction” Podcast on StarShipSofa!




The guys at StarShipSofa have put together a wonderful podcast of my F&SF novelette “Subduction”! Many thanks to Assistant Editor Jeremy Szal for expediting production, and to Editor/Producer Tony Smith for his flattering words about the story and my writing group, Altered Fluid.

When the story came out in print this summer, Lois Tilton in Locus Online called it “inspired” and said “the prose makes it a joy to read.” I was prepared to be very picky about the narration, but Mark Kilfoil does a great job with it.

The link to the podcast is here.  “Subduction” begins at the 21:00 mark.

For some more color on the story, an interview I did with F&SF editor C. C. Finlay when it was first published is here.


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Get a short story for free!

SOSIf you enjoyed my new book, The Silence of Six, or have been curious about giving it a try, may I suggest you download the free prequel, “SOS”? The short story is available now as an eBook on Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks (presumably soon on Nook as well) — for FREE!


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book recommendation: Now That You’re Here

In a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek.

One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body–his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee–a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom–may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

I consider myself something of a connoisseur of stories about parallel universes. I’ve been a fan of multiple worlds since the Spock-with-a-beard episode of the original Star Trek, and I never tire of seeing the idea explored in television, films, and of course books. It seems like the last decade has enjoyed a kind of alternate-universe Renaissance; the idea of visiting other universes has gone from a niche concept like the old show Sliders in the 1990s to a mainstream popular culture phenomenon. That’s good news for aficionados like me who can’t get enough of these tales, but the flip side is that we’ve kind of seen everything by now. Or have we?

One of the joys of multiverse stories is that there are as many variations on the topic as there are (potentially) other worlds out there. The key to making these stories unique, entertaining, and moving is to focus on the characters who live them — and that’s where Amy K. Nichols’ debut YA novel, Now That You’re Here, shines. Main characters Eevee Solomon and Danny Ogden (who alternate chapters throughout the book), and a host of secondary characters including Eevee’s best friend Warren, are believable, sympathetic, and engaging. You need a compelling cast to ground a book like this in reality — take your pick of which — and whisk the reader along through the inevitable exposition. One of the trickiest parts of any book dealing with theoretical quantum physics is conveying it to readers, and Nichols manages that delicate balance well.

Rather than dwelling on the complex science that might make multiple worlds — and travel between them — possible, Nichols emphasizes the complexity of people: What makes us who we are, and the relationships that bind us together. What’s most important is how Danny’s jump from his universe to Eevee’s affects them both. Their stories intersect and parallel each other in surprising, fascinating ways; Danny loses his universe, a dystopian surveillance state, and in turn shakes up Eevee’s world, allowing her to realize just how controlled her own life has been. This book also celebrates geeks and how intelligence, curiosity, and compassion can empower teens to accomplish profound things — all with a bit of wit, humor, and romance.

From its literally explosive start, Now That You’re Here hooks the reader and pulls them into Eevee’s world right along with Danny. The mystery of how Danny exchanged places with his other self is explained (mostly) in a satisfying, and to me entirely fresh way, and the sensible and clever steps Eevee, Danny, and Warren take to unravel it and devise a solution to send him home is thrilling. But it’s the personal questions they ask of themselves and each other, and the answers they find together, that provides the real substance of the novel.

If you’re new to books about parallel universes, Now That You’re Here is the perfect place to launch your adventure across multiple worlds. And if you think you’ve seen it all, you’re wrong; though this book necessarily treads on some familiar ground, you haven’t met anyone like Eevee and Danny — or their other selves — yet. Fans of books like Parallel by Lauren Miller, Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, and Planesrunner by Ian McDonald shouldn’t miss this exciting take on the multiverse. I’m already looking forward to While You Were Gone, the second book in the Duplexity duology, in which we see what the alternate Eevee and Danny are up to in Danny’s parallel world. Brilliant, right?

Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols is now available from Knopf Books for Young Readers. While You Were Gone (Duplexity #2) will follow in 2015.

This post originally appeared at The League of Extraordinary Writers.


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“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.

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.

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Trilogy Book Deal

resurrectionhouse_logoThe good news I’ve been waiting to announce: I’ve just sold a book trilogy to Resurrection House, the publisher headed by the pioneering Mark Teppo. The first book in my trilogy is called King of Shards, and will be coming out in Fall of 2015 under their imprint Arche Press. The uber-talented and whip-smart Darin Bradley acquired the books and will be my editor.

If you’ve come to some of my readings over the past couple of years you may have heard various excerpts of the work-in-progress. Here’s the premise of King of Shards:

Across the ineffable expanse of the Great Deep float billions of failed creations, shattered universes known as the Shards. Populated with wrathful demons and struggling humans, the Shards depend on Earth for their existence as plants depend on the sun for life. Earth itself is sustained by thirty-six righteous people, thirty-six anonymous saints known as the Lamed Vav. Kill but a few of the Lamed Vav and Earth shatters, and the Shards that depend on Earth for life will die in a horrible, eons-long cataclysm.

On Daniel Fisher’s wedding day, Ashmedai, King of Demonkind abducts Daniel and ferries him down to the barren Shard of Gehinnom. While adjusting to life on this harsh desert landscape, Ashmedai tells Daniel he is a Lamed Vav, that should Daniel and a few more Lamed Vav die, the entire Cosmos will be destroyed in a monstrous cataclysm. The demoness Mashit has usurped the throne from Ashmedai and has murdered three Lamed Vav already. Ashmedai hungers to regain his former reign over demonkind and aligns with Daniel to save the Earth and all the Shards. Together the anonymous saint and demon king race across Gehinnom, hunting for the quickest path back to Earth to save the remaining Lamed Vav before Mashit and her demon minions bring destruction upon the entire Cosmos. But evil Ashmedai cannot be trusted; Daniel’s alignment with the demon king has grave costs. Forced to murder and steal to survive, Daniel finds that he may not be a Lamed Vavnik — a saint — anymore. Yet who but a Lamed Vavnik can save the world?

King of Shards will be my first published novel — something I’ve worked hard on for so long. Words fail to express how excited I am about this! (And how glad I am to finally share this news!)


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Launchpad Anthology in Trade Paperback

Launch Pad edited by Jody Lynn Nye & Mike Brotherton, PhDIn the summer of 2012 I attended the Launchpad astronomy workshop, and as I described in a previous blog post, it was a life-changing experience. Always looking to increase science literacy, Michael Brotherton and Jody Lynn Nye decided to edit an anthology with works from Launchpad alumni. The result is Launch Pad, which is recently out in trade paperback format. I’ve got an original science fiction piece in there called “The Last Probe.” The anthology includes stories from:

Introduction by Kevin R. Grazier, Phd
with stories by:
Geoffrey Landis
Matthew Kressel
Mike Brotherton
Mary Turzillo
Jay Lake
Tiffany Trent
Jake Kerr
Michael Kurland
Sandra McDonald
Doug Farren
Matthew Rotundo
Jody Lynn Nye

Get your copy here.

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books vs. babies!

me_and_rPeople sometimes talk about books as if they are babies, raised by the author and ultimately sent into the world to make their fortunes. We even wish authors a “happy book birthday” on their publication day! In the last month, I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between “book babies” and actual babies, since I’m in the position to compare the two directly; as it happens (as it was meant to happen), my new book and our first baby were both scheduled to debut in the first week of November. :-o

My son turned up a little early, which made the launch of The Silence of Six slightly easier, but it has still been an interesting experience juggling my new life as a father with my life as a writer with a day job. I decided to put books and babies side by side in the chart below. Like books and babies, it’s still a work in progress, and I left a few things out. Do you have anything you would add or disagree with? Let me know in the comments below!

[Click to embiggen]

[Click to embiggen]

This post originally appeared at Pub(lishing) Crawl on Dec. 3, 2014.


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cracking the code: media portrayals of women in STEM


The Paley Center for Media in New York in association with Girls Who Code is putting together what looks to be a terrific panel program about media portrayals of women in science, technology, engineering, and math, with:

Elizabeth Henstridge, “Jemma Simmons,” Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Carrie Kemper, Writer, Silicon Valley
Aisha Tyler, Actress, Archer, Whose Line Is It Anyway?
David Bushman, Television Curator, The Paley Center for Media
Moderator: Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code

Tickets are on sale now ($15) for this event in NYC on Dec. 8 at 6:00 p.m., and they say they’ll be streaming the panel online at 6:05 p.m. here. (I’m not sure if that’s free to anyone, but I hope so.)

For more details and to buy tickets, visit the Paley Center.


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An Optimistic Response

Two weeks ago I wrote a post, Visions of the Future, in which I worried that humanity is too stuck in the dystopian mode of thinking about the future and that we need to change our mode into a more positive, optimistic future for humanity. My idea is not new. Jetse de Vries has been trying to promulgate this worldview for years. In 2010 he put his money where his mouth is and published Shine: An Anthology of Near-Future Optimistic Science Fiction. While it didn’t garner huge attention or sales or start a new wave, it did plant a seed that has been slowly growing within the SF world. Jetse commented on my recent post, saying:

Great post, Matt, and obviously I agree with most of it. Now, would you mind telling me which stories that *you* have written so far do indeed portray an optimistic vision of the future? I’m not being snarky here: I really wish to know so I can read them.

The only problem was his comment went into my spam folder, and I didn’t see the comment until this weekend.

On Twitter, Jetse called me out for my inaction. He tweeted the following this past weekend:


There are more tweets, but you get the jist. Jetse is saying, “Stop complaining, start writing!”

First, I want to point out that I wasn’t ignoring Jetse. His comment went into my spam folder and it was only by chance that I noticed his comment when I logged into my blog. (I’ve since adjusted my spam filter.) So the delay was my fault, but it was not intentional. Second, I want to point out that I have, in fact, written several Optimistic Science Fiction stories, depending on your definition of such. They are (*note there are story spoilers below):

  • “The Last Probe” – published Sept 2013 in the Launchpad anthology, edited by Michael Brotherton and Jody Lynn Nye, about a space probe that overshoots its mark by many thousands of light years. Though this is a partial spoiler, the surprises it finds when it wakes up is part of the optimism.
  • “The Sounds of Old Earth” – published Jan 2013 in Lightspeed, about a man who must say goodbye to his ancestral home and move to a newly fabricated Earth. While elements of this story might seem dystopian to some, I do believe that the story (again, spoilers), ends on a note of optimism, and it shows a grand version of humanity that has completely rebuilt itself from ashes.
  • “Lullaby of the Ages” – published Sept 2008 in Reflections Edge, is about two aliens who gently coerce humanity, over centuries, to use a specific frequency of radio for their interstellar communications, in order that this frequency repel a predator species that eats entire galaxies. Again, while not overtly optimistic, it does posit a grand, galactic future for humanity, post-scarcity.
  • “Marie and the Mathematicians” – published Nov 2006, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #26, about a savant-like waitress at a university coffee shop whose world-changing ideas are stolen by a professor. The world they create together is ultimately a positive one (though their relationship is not).

And depending on how you read my other stories, I do have more optimistic ones. While I do tend toward the dark in my fiction, and while I like to write about things beyond or post-humanity, this does not mean that I do not share Jetse’s vision for a grand human future. But he is right in that I, like him, need to put my money where my mouth is. I need to write more Optimistic SF.

He pointed out a perfect opportunity for writers of SF, like me, to do so: Plasma Frequency magazine is now reading submissions for a special anti-apocalypse issue, and it seems a perfect place to send our Optimistic SF stories. While the pay rate is not great (1 cent per word), perhaps if more markets like these begin publishing Optimistic SF works, we will see some of the larger, professional markets like Lightspeed, Asimov, F&SF, and others taking notice. Of course the story still has to be good, and good stories will get noticed.

With the glut of dystopian fiction in the available today, the shift away from such bleak futures into alternatives is partially market driven, partially societal. But the shift does afford an opportunity for writers to introduce the Optimistic SF meme to a larger audience, since the market is now receptive to new ideas. I sense a collective shift in what people are looking for. Perhaps as a sign, just yesterday I came across this fantastic short video, an utterly optimistic view of the future if there ever was one:


Wanderers – a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo.

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