Sunday, June 5, 2016

Things With Beards, by Sam J. Miller

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(Horror) Following a disaster in Antarctica, MacReady spends summer 1983 in New York and starts to wonder what he might have brought back with him. (4,712 words; Time: 15m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average
Recommended By: SFRevu:4 GDozois:5 RHorton:5 NClarke JStrahan Nebula

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 117, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Taking the monster as a metaphor for AIDS, MacReady goes from denial to acceptance in the course of the story. Notice that the monster requires absolute privacy before it transmits itself, which pretty much limits it to sexual partners.

Con: The subplot about the action against the police departments seems unfinished, and little or nothing is done with the fact that MacReady had a black mother but is able to "pass" for white.

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9 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. There seems to me a *lot* of overlap with Miller's recent piece, Angel, Monster, Man, in Nightmare Magazine.

    They both go deeply into the senses of isolation, rage, and injustice, brought on by AIDS and simply by being gay. I felt "Angel, Monster, Man" was a much stronger piece, though - better constructed, more vivid, and with much more to say.

  2. Nightmare isn't on our list because it's horror. Not a surprise that there's overlap, though; most writers seem to have a set of ideas they really like, and they explore those in various settings.

    1. I didn't have Nightmare on my radar for a while for the same reason, but I've found I like them a lot. "Angel, Monster, Man" is dark fantasy, and a bunch of other stories straddle that line as well.

      I don't read them regularly because, well, limited reading time - there's really only one magazine, maybe one and a half, that I do read regularly; everything else I sample randomly. But they're literally next on my list.

  3. I agree with the RSR rating. Maybe horror just isn't for me, but I didn't find the ending chilling like some reviewers, just inevitable. The contagion has spread and it doesn't seem to matter what MacReady does at this point. As for the metaphor with AIDS and being true to oneself, it's interesting but doesn't give a +1 boost in my rating. Also, I don't remember enough from the movie "The Thing" (and don't care enough to look it up) to understand why the creature went from killing people in Antarctica to replicating itself away from there.

    1. OK, I broke down and read the summary of "The Thing" and it sounds much more exciting than this story. :-) I totally forgot all the deaths were from humans killing the converted "things" and the movie ends with MacReady and Childs freezing (to death, or so it seems). Might be worth a rewatch.

  4. I agree with the rating.

    I had to read your review to figure out some of the things going on in this story. I just could NOT "connect the dots" within this story. Something about the way it was constructed made it difficult to follow what was going on.

    I have not read the specifc story that Standback has linked to, but his comment about stories by this author is accurate in a more general context imo. I have read other stories by Sam J Miller and they are better.

    1. Miller has written much better stuff. I'm not sure why this particular one is attracting so much attention.

    2. Maybe you're not the only one who reads Clarkesworld but skips Nightmare :P

  5. I finally got around to reading "Angel, Monster, Man".

    I agree with what Standback said. This story is worth checking out. It is novelette length but I read it in one sitting free online. It is more dark fantasy, rather than horror, if that helps.