To mark the anniversary of David Bowie's birth and death last week, author and activist Sam J Miller wrote a new short story for Tor.com titled "Let The Children Boogie." Set in the Hudson Valley in 1991, the story follows two queer teenagers named Laurie and Fell as they discover each other, and rock & roll, and a strange message broadcast over radio waves that may or may not come from the future.
Here's a sample:
Radio was where we met. Our bodies first occupied the same space on a Friday afternoon, but our minds had already connected Thursday night. Coming up on twelve o'clock, awake when we shouldn't be, both of us in our separate narrow beds, miles and miles apart, tuning in to Ms. Jackson's Graveyard Shift, spirits linked up in the gruff cigarette-damaged sound of her voice.
She'd played "The Passenger," by Iggy Pop. I'd never heard it before, and it changed my life.
Understand: there was no internet then. No way to look up the lyrics online. No way to snap my fingers and find the song on YouTube or iTunes. I was crying by the time it was over, knowing it might be months or years before I found it again. Maybe I never would. Strawberries, Hudson's only record store, almost certainly wouldn't have it. Those four guitar chords were seared indelibly into my mind, the lonesome sound of Iggy's voice certain to linger there for as long as I lived, but the song itself was already out of my reach as it faded down to nothing.
And then: a squall of distortion interrupted, stuttering into staticky words, saying what might have been "Are you out there?" before vanishing again.
Eerie, but no more eerie than the tingly feeling I still had from Iggy Pop's voice. And the sadness of losing the song forever.
But then, the next day, at the Salvation Army, thumbing through hundreds of dresses I hated, what did I hear but—
"I am the passenger…and I ride and I ride—"
Not from the shitty in-store speakers, which blasted Fly-92 pop drivel all the time. Someone was singing. Someone magnificent. Like pawn-shop royalty, in an indigo velvet blazer with three handkerchiefs tied around one forearm, and brown corduroy bell-bottoms.
"I see things from under glass—"
The singer must have sensed me staring, because they turned to look in my direction. Shorter than me, hair buzzed to the scalp except for a spiked stripe down the center.
"The Graveyard Shift," I said, trembling. "You were listening last night?"
"Yeah," they said, and their smile was summer, was weekends, was Ms. Jackson's raspy-sweet voice. The whole place smelled like mothballs, and the scent had never been so wonderful. "You too?"
My mind had no need for pronouns. Or words at all for that matter. This person filled me up from the very first moment.
"Let All The Children Boogie" [Sam J. Miller / Tor Dot Com]