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Interview: Amman Sabet on “Tender Loving Plastics”

Amman sabetTell us a bit about the story.

“Tender Loving Plastics” is about Issa, a child growing up in automated foster care with her foster siblings who cycle through the system.


What was the inspiration for “Tender Loving Plastics,” or what prompted you to write it?

I scribbled an early version of “Tender Loving Plastics” at the Geisel Library at UCSD. If you take the elevator to the fourth or fifth floor, wander past the books towards the windows and peer out across the campus, you might catch a glimpse of “Fallen Star”, a sculpture by Do Huh Suh.

From this angle, “Fallen Star” appears as a little blue suburban home balanced precariously on the edge of the neighboring building’s roof. To me, its smallness and vulnerability contrasts sharply with the brutalist campus architecture. This view was, at a subconscious level, the inspiration for “Tender Loving Plastics.” You have the university, which is itself a parent entity. And you have this little house, charming but unbelonging, as if someone hurled it up there. How would growing up in that house affect a kid?


Was this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

There have been some adoptions in my immediate family. I’m a designer by trade, so I initially approached this as any designer would try to address a real-world issue. I assembled the setting, but then I ended up filling it with a collage of my impressions growing up.


What was the most difficult aspect of writing “Tender Loving Plastics” and what was the most fun?

The most difficult part was the research. It’s a story with orphans, so I tried to be sure I wasn’t doing harm in my descriptions. Learning about how foster care impacts the development of the amygdala and behavioral issues in children was heart-breaking. Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation study and Harry Harlowe’s Studies on Dependency in Monkeys also lent some perspective.

The fun part was drawing the story before writing it. I’m a big fan of drawing before writing anything.


What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

Maybe just a moment to pause on all the little formative things they’ve been through.


What are you working on now?

I have another story, “Umbrus” out now in issue 10 of F(r)iction, which is about an anomalous space object. Then I have a few shorts which are being reviewed or polished for review, and I’m woefully neglecting a novel project that I’m supposed to have ready for a summer workshop.

Having just recently moved to Echo Park in Los Angeles, I’m also on the hunt for a good crit group in the area that meets regularly. Give me a shout @AmmanSabet if your group is looking for a new member!


“Tender Loving Plastics” appears in the may/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

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