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Interview: Sam J. Miller on “Shucked”

Sam J. MillerWhat was the inspiration for “Shucked,” or what prompted you to write it?

Some story seeds lodge in your head for a long time before you figure out the right soil to plant them in. “Shucked” was like that – I was eating lunch at my favorite restaurant on 125th Street (Uptown Veg, def check it out if you’re in the area) and I saw this tourist couple speaking Polish (?). The boy was breathtakingly beautiful, in a way that made me worried for him, while the woman he was with seemed like absolutely nothing on earth could faze her. The dynamic between them was so striking that it stuck with me. Years later, I thought it might mash up well with a gay version of the plot of the movie “Indecent Proposal,” and years after THAT I read Milan Kundera’s short story “The Hitchhiking Game,” a realistic tale about a couple who play a game that gets out of control and ends up totally wrecking them, and all the pieces of “Shucked” came together in my mind.


Why do you write?

Because it’s fun! And challenging. And because I love storytelling, and reading, and being part of the wild crew of weirdos and geniuses and poets and misfits that is the SF/F/H community.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

So many! Octavia Butler above and beyond all else. Ted Chiang, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, Karen Joy Fowler, Julio Cortazar, Isaak Babel, Ray Bradbury, Holly Black, Toni Morrison, Jean Genet, Zora Neale Hurston, Kij Johnson, Jacqueline Woodson, Stephen King, Samuel R. Delany, Maria Dahvana Headley, Carmen Maria Machado, JY Yang, Nino Cipri, N.K. Jemisin, Alyssa Wong, Usman Tanveer Malik I COULD GO ON AND ON


You started your career in short fiction, but you’ve gone on to publish several novels in the past few years.  Can you tell us anything about the differences or similarities between writing long and short fiction, and which do you prefer?

The potentially-problematic analogy I keep coming back to is that writing novels is like a happy committed romantic relationship, and short stories are like one night stands, or random hook-ups. Both can be super fun and rewarding and hot and exciting, but in different ways, and it’s totally possible to have both in your creative life.


What are you working on now?

Final edits to my novel THE BLADE BETWEEN, which will be published by Ecco Press in late 2020 – it’s like HOUSE OF CARDS by way of Stephen King, about a gay guy who moves back to his home town and finds it’s being heavily gentrified, and helps mastermind a plot to drive the wealthy invaders out… except he might be manipulated by ghosts, and the conspiracy may get completely out of control and build to a metric ton of violence.


“Shucked” appears in the November/December 2019 issue of F&SF.

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Click on Sam Miller’s photo (credit to Kalyani-Aindri Sanchez) to visit his website.


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