Pat Murphy is best known for her 1986 Nebula Award winning novel The Falling Woman or her 1987 Nebula Award winning novelette “Rachel in Love.” The following year, she published the short story “Dead Men on TV” in the debut volume of Full Spectrum, edited by Lou Aronica and Shawna McCarthy.
The unnamed narrator of “Dead Men on TV” spends her nights watching old movies on television, specifically films in which her late father appeared. Through the story, she reveals that her family life had not been great. Her mother was not prepared for the lifestyle that being married to a Hollywood actor entailed and committed suicide when the narrator was young. Her father, who had ignored her mother before she killed herself, shifted his efforts to ignoring his daughter after he was widowed, focusing on his career and living the lifestyle of a star.
Watching television, therefore, is her way of attempting to reconnect with her father’s memory and build an ersatz relationship with him. Her need, however, to watch his films when they are on, no matter the time of day, is clearly unhealthy. Although she has videotaped many of his movies, she feels closer to him when watching them at a time that other people could be watching them as well, leading to many late nights in front of the screen.
In 1988, Murphy won a Nebula Award for her story “Rachel in Love” and her novel The Falling Woman. “Rachel in Love” was also nominated for a Hugo Award and won the Theodore Sturrgeon Memorial Award. She won a World Fantasy Award for her novella “Bones,” and a Philip K. Dick Award for Points of Departure. Murphy’s There and Back Again, by Max Merriwell, a science fictional retelling of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, received the Seiun Award in 2002.
“On a Hot Summer Night in a Place Far Away” was first published by Shawny McCarthy in the May 1985 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. It was included by Murphy’s collection Points of Departure. The Women’s Press included the story in the anthology Letters from Home, which reprinted six stories each by Murphy, Karen Joy Fowler, and Pat Cadigan. The story appeared in Mike Resnick’s Future Earths:Under South American Skies. It was translated for the German edition of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.
Murphy’s story “On a Hot Summer Night in a Place Far Away” is set Merida, Mexico where Gregorio sells hammocks to the tourists. He lives there because after his divorce, his wife remarried and he no longer feels welcome in his home village. When a strange looking American tourist rejects both his advances and his sales pitch, he determines that he will both sell her a hammock and find his way into her bed.
He is only marginally successful, selling her an hammock, but only managing to talk to her. He learns that just as he is living in exile from his home village, having made a home for himself in Merida, but without roots, so, too, she is living in exile, looking forward to the day she is able to return to her home, which she claims is among the stars. Although she makes him forget the details of the conversation, Gregorio manages to bring her some relief from her homesickness as she waits to be returned to the stars.