Things with Beards

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Fanfiction
Title: Things with Beards
Author(s): Sam J. Miller
Date(s): 7 June 2016 (Digitial publication, Clarkesworld)
2 July 2016 (Print publication, Clarkesworld)
Length: 4,700 words
Genre: Horror, thriller, science fiction
Fandom: The Thing
External Links: Clarkesworld Magazine

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Things with Beards is a The Thing short story, written by Sam J. Miller. Self-described as a "fanfic sequel", the story serves as a direct continuation of the 1982 film.[1] The story follows MacReady in New York City after he is rescued from Antarctica. MacReady grapples with both social issues of the 1980s and unknowingly being infected by The Thing, which leaves holes in his memory and attacks people around him.

Things with Beards was first published in the June 2016 edition of Clarkesworld, and received a positive to mixed reception. It was nominated for three writing awards, including a Nebula. The story was later included in various best-of compilations for science fiction and fantasy stories.

Summary

Essentially a fanfic sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, my story follows MacReady after the events of the movie, returned to his life with his memory full of weird holes. And he’s watching AIDS ravage his community. And he’s supporting the work of Black liberation activists who are fighting to stop the cops from brutalizing communities of color. And he might be killing lots of people.[1]

Reception

Things with Beards received a positive reception, though occasionally mixed or negative. Reviewers praised the overall writing but were split on the implementation of social themes. While some praised the themes, others criticized their implementation as clunky, unsubtle, and at odds with the characterization presented or implied in the original film.

Both Sam J. Miller and Clarksworld editor Neil Clarke anticipated controversy over the story's choice of themes and the decision to take certain interpretations from the film's ending, as well as interpreting MacReady and Childs as gay men. Soon after the story's release, Clarke stated that "[this story] is going to piss a lot of people off."[1] In an interview for Locus Magazine, Miller remarked that he "[imagines] someone somewhere is having an apoplectic fit over it. OR I’M NOT DOING MY JOB," regarding his decisions.[2]

Things with Beards was nominated for three writing awards but did not win any.

Reviews

As is typical of Miller’s work, “Things With Beards” delivers a satisfying emotional punch, and serves as an excellent example of contemporary fiction in conversation with a SFF classic.
A.C. Wise[3]
This is probably one of the worst things I have ever read, and it makes the other, already horrible (Hugo) finalists look good in comparison. What’s more, there isn’t even a hint of science fiction or fantasy, with the exception of what the author stole from the movie The Thing, but I still don’t know if those elements are literal, metaphorical, or some postmodernist meta-nonsense bollocks that becomes one thing or the other depending on who is asking. How did this thing get nominated for a Nebula, I don’t know and I don’t really want to know.
Emperor Ponders[4]
Miller’s stories, like this one and this one, too, are just packed full of issues. Where I often worry about my stories floating out of my grasp and out to sea if I don’t have a streamlined plot, Miller just goes for it. He stuffs multiple messy aspects of his main character’s life into whatever tale he’s telling, and it works.
L.A. Barnitz[5]
Regardless of the politics, I think this story is complex and well-developed enough to rate a possible nomination. I’d be happier if the messages were more subtle.
Lela E. Buis[6]
Okay, I'll admit, I had a problem with this at first. The ending of the movie was perfect in my opinion, Carpenter himself never releasing the alternate ending where MacReady and Childs are rescued. The second problem was, why would Miller make these two characters Gay? Sure, there were no women in the movie for the characters to interact with, so their sexuality was unremarked upon and ambiguous, but the film contained no outright clues to indicate they were anything other than straight heterosexual males. It wasn't until the very end of this story that I finally understood the central point Miller was making—what The Thing, itself did —with this one change. Masks. Those masks that we wear every day, hiding our true selves from even the people we love. Very well done, and recommended.
Clancy Weeks[7]
Sam J. Miller’s “Things With Beards” (Clarkesworld, June) riffs on a rather scarier story about a form of alien contact, a story that has been successfully riffed on before, in both movies and an excellent recent Peter Watts tale. So the title tells you which story, right? And hints at what Miller is doing, quite ambitiously, as his protagonist, back from the Antarctic, a somewhat closeted gay man in the early ‘80s, at the onset of the AIDS crisis, also engages with a protest movement against police violence, and wonders what is happening to him when he forgets hours at a time. It’s interesting to see Miller using the metaphor of a shape-changing alien monster so bravely – a worthwhile new take on a classic.
Rich Horton[8]

Accolades

Year Award Category Result
2016 Nebula Awards[9] Short Story Nominated
2016 Shirley Jackson Awards[10] Best Short Fiction Nominated
2017 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards[11] Best Short Science Fiction 3rd place

External links

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b c Miller, 2016
  2. ^ Locus Magazine, 2016
  3. ^ Wise, 2016
  4. ^ Emperor Ponders, 2016
  5. ^ Barnitz, 2017
  6. ^ Buis, 2017
  7. ^ Weeks, 2016
  8. ^ Horton, 2017
  9. ^ Nebula Awards, 2017
  10. ^ Shirley Jackson Awards, 2017
  11. ^ J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, 2017

Works cited

Barnitz, L.A. (8 March 2017). "Review of "Things With Beards" by Sam J. Miller". Imagined Worlds | L.A. Barnitz. Archived from the original on 23 Sep 2020. Retrieved 6 July 2022.

Buis, Lela E. (21 Jan 2017). "Review of "Things With Beards" by Sam J. Miller". Lela E. Buis. Archived from the original on 7 July 2022. Retrieved 6 July 2022.

Emperor Ponders (8 May 2017). "Reading Nebulas (2017) Things with Beards, by Sam J. Miller". Emperor's Notepad. Archived from the original on 30 Sep 2020. Retrieved 6 July 2022.

Horton, Rich (7 Feb 2020). "Birthday Review: Stories of Sam J. Miller". Strange at Ecbatan. Archived from the original on 9 Feb 2020. Retrieved 10 July 2022.

"The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award". J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. 2017. Archived from the original on 14 August 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2022.

"Spotlight on: Sam J. Miller, Writer". Locus Magazine. 12 Aug 2016. Archived from the original on 20 Oct 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2022.

Miller, Sam J. (9 June 2016). "New Story: "Things With Beards"". Sam J. Miller. Archived from the original on 3 July 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2022.

"Things With Beards". Science Fictions & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. 2017. Archived from the original on 17 July 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2022.

"2016 Shirley Jackson Awards Winners". Shirley Jackson Awards. July 2017. Archived from the original on 8 October 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2022.

Weeks, Clancy (19 June 2016). "Clarkesworld #117, June 2016". Tangent Online. Archived from the original on 4 July 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2022.

Wise, A.C. (14 June 2016). "Words for Thought #2". Apex Magazine. Archived from the original on 7 July 2022. Retrieved 6 July 2022.