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Interview: Sarina Dorie on “A Mother’s Arms”

– Tell us a bit about “A Mother’s Arms.”

“A Mother’s Arms” is about a relationship between a surrogate mother and her adopted human, and their cultural misunderstandings and conflicts.

One of the themes that made its way into this story was the idea of family. In general, I enjoy reading science fiction, but I am especially drawn to stories that revolve around families, relationships or women’s issues because those are the things that interest me outside of science fiction.

I write about what I know: I write about relationships, family, love, wanting children, and sometimes even romance between humans and insects–although, I don’t actually know what this is like. I get to imagine that. Someone told me that I write the hottest, alien-insect erotica they’ve ever read. I really didn’t think “The Day of the Nuptial Flight” was even a romance. My mom read it and said, “I liked it except there was a bug in that story. That’s gross.” I think she will like “A Mother’s Arms” more. She will be able to relate to it. But that’s how writing is. A diversity of stories, themes, and topics will appeal to different readers and draw new people in. When a writer can attract people outside of their usual audience, they have a story that resonates. I think that is why The Martian did well—the author got people outside of science fiction readers to read his book. That is why Fifty Shades of Grey did well—it got people who weren’t erotica readers to read it. My goal is to just write the kind of stories I enjoy writing and reading and hope that they resonate with people who like science fiction, but also resonate with people who don’t like science fiction.


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Previously F&SF published my story, “The Day of the Nuptial Flight.” One of the things that stands out in my mind when C.C. Finlay accepted the story, was that he said it was one of the most alien-positive stories he had read. I was pretty excited about that because I had more stories in this world. I started “A Mother’s Arms” before “The Day of the Nuptial Flight” but it was six years before I could think of a happy ending for it.

Partially the story was inspired by the nature of cephalopods on our planet and their lifespan, how they die after mating, and how this would define a cephalopod-like creature’s psychology. There are certain reoccurring themes that come up again and again in my writing. Cephalopod physiology and sexuality makes its way into my stories in the krakens, the Cthulhu-like monsters and multi-limbed aliens that I write about.

I knew “A Mother’s Arms” was part of the same world and I wanted to write another story with alien insects and giant creatures that dwarfed the human colonists, but it was hard to get into that mindset after I had put it aside for so long.


– What is it like to write from a non-human perspective, and how do you get into that alien headspace?

I used to live in South Korea and Japan where I taught English. I always felt like an alien. In Korea people stared openly. Sometimes when I was the grocery store children would run up to me and touch my hair and run away. I was told I was exotic because of my blue eyes and golden hair. Sometimes adult strangers would come up to me and touch my hair and it was really uncomfortable to be the foreigner, since I was used to other people being the foreigner. In Japan people didn’t openly stare, but they would study me of the corner of their eyes. I was always making cultural mistakes, which were sometimes a result of my lack of literacy or lack of language skills. Every day I was a stranger in a strange land and it gave me a different perspective on my own culture and what it was like for foreigners who came to our culture. While living abroad I wrote a lot of stories through the perspective of monsters and aliens dealing with xenophobia and the equivalent of racism, or “alienism.”

I find it really easy to write stories about what I know. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to write urban fantasy or stories about teachers who have students who are zombies that are trying to attack them since that is already pretty close to my current reality. When I am writing a story about being a monster or being an alien, it is a lot more challenging these days because I have to immerse myself in that world and that feeling, and have to experience it. I have to remind myself what it was like to be the alien again. I think I must be like a method actor. This probably makes a lot of sense when I consider I am currently writing a series about steampunk (The Memory Thief series) and I have to surround myself with steampunk aesthetics so I can feel I belong to that world. I watch BBC shows and historical documentaries to soak up that era.

People used to say I was a daydreamer when I was a kid. I still am. I am often in another world.


– Do you have any more stories planned in the setting of this story and your previous story for F&SF, “The Day of the Nuptial Flight?”

I have two more stories in my head that are set in the same world. It is just a matter of immersing myself back into that world and fleshing out the stories. Of course, ideas pop into my head all the time, begging to be written down. I never know which I will write first—the story that is waiting first in line or if a new one will cut in front of all the others and insists on being first. I really need to find the time to daydream so I can get back to that planet.

Currently I am writing Clockwork Memories, a novel set in The Memory Thief World, also influenced by living in Japan and being an alien. I often give away free books on Goodreads and make announcements for days books are free on Kindle. The best way to find out what is new, what is free and where to find them is to sign up for my newsletter at:

Or on my website:


“A Mother’s Arms” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.

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