1 thought on ““Angel, Monster, Man,” by Sam J. Miller”

  1. Oh, wow. This was remarkable.

    The premise is so powerful and harrowing and vivid. "Idea comes to life" has been done, but this was *such* a rich, powerful use of it. This bit is going to stick with me for a long time:

    "When Whit died last February, his mother gave me a laundry bag full of his writing to ‘see what I could do with it.’ I said yes, because what else can you say to a grieving mother? When I got it home, I found the work of two other writers in that sack along with his own — guys who had died, and who had left their work to him to ‘see what he could do with it.’"

    The first section alone was enough to sell me on the entire thing. Looking back now on the whole, I feel like a *lot* of the piece is about the interplay between symbols, and what they symbolize. The symbol is *by definition* simpler – ""People can’t identify with statistics"; "They need one face," "One name."

    But the symbol *does* contain the whole; Tom Minniq encompasses *all* the creators he represents, he’s got elements of *all* the men who created him, even the elements he wasn’t "meant" to have. You can’t control what the symbol symbolizes – you’re hooked to it, for good and for ill.

    There’s a lot here about the anger and violence of revolution."I suspected Pablo’s last act of activism was not meant to terrorize the guilty but to unify the oppressed," says Derrick, and that’s a dividing line the story is deeply interested in. It’s clear how much justification there is for anger, hate, and condemnation, but taking the step to violence and terrorism is presented here as precisely what makes this a horror story. Even that isn’t absolute, though – "It will hurt, because of course it will hurt, because the things we need most always do," is Pablo’s conclusion, and Tom’s terrorism and the eruption of horrific violence seem to have actually achieved their goal.

    I think the story is talking about how inextricable revolution and violence are from one another (and, I think, about how this inextricability is exactly why we need to be so clear in drawing boundaries between the two). I’m not sure the story itself would quite hold up to scrutiny on this theme:
    – Pablo’s anger is assigned responsibility for Tom’s murderous side; but it’s Jakob’s hope that made Tom the inspiration and symbol. And ANGRY inspiration, to be sure. But this begs the question: Could Tom have just been all good, if Pablo hadn’t been involved? Is the hatred and violence actually necessary?
    – Pablo’s rage and Tom’s violence do not, ultimately, prove destructive. The story describes " Jesse Helms kidnapped and tied down and doused in gasoline and set on fire; Falwell acid-disfigured," and yet the LGBT community has gone, in a mere decade, from "Don’t worry, they’re dying and won’t be a tourism problem" to "Honored and inspiring victors, holding corporate-publicized galas." I have a lot of trouble seeing it as plausible that things worked out so very smoothly, or that there are so few consequences to this violence.

    I also feel like there’s something to be said about how Tom’s great signal is giving each gay man a sign of *shame*. That seems negative, dispiriting, eerie to me. If you unify the oppressed by reminding them each of their something they won’t even talk about… It *works*, but I feel like there’s something very sour about it. I haven’t fully formed a response to this point yet, though.

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