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Interview: Y. M. Pang on “The Lady of Butterflies”

Y. M. PangTell us a bit about “The Lady of Butterflies.”

It’s a story about Rikara, the First Sword of Keja, who encounters a mysterious foreign woman in the palace gardens. It’s about that woman, Morieth, and her fragmented memories.


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

Three things came together for this story. First, I had an image of a woman transforming into butterflies. Another person rushed toward her, wanting to save her–as silly as that notion was.

A few days later, I watched a video about how caterpillars became butterflies. It’s truly incredible: the caterpillar becomes soup inside the chrysalis, and completely reforms itself as a butterfly.

As the story solidified, I realized it fit quite well with a pre-existing world I had built: The Empire of Keja, home of a powerful warrior class called the Swordbearers.


Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “The Lady of Butterflies?”

Research mostly consisted of confirming (and figuring out how to describe) the caterpillar’s transformation. Though I must say, C.C. Finlay did a much better job of tackling it scientifically in his story introduction than I could!


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

Perhaps a little, regarding the theme of being displaced from your homeland to a foreign country. Even then I hesitate to say it’s personal to me, since I’ve been in Canada from a very young age. But it’s something I’ve observed from my parents, and from friends who immigrated at a few years older than me.


The world of “The Lady of Butterflies” feels richly developed, especially for a novelet.  Can you tell us anything about your process for building the background and setting of this story, or what inspirations you drew for this world?

I’ve been developing the world for quite a while. It originated as the backdrop of a complicated fight-for-your-chance-second-chance-at-life story that I’m nowhere near completing. When I started planning “The Lady of Butterflies,” I realized it slotted quite well into the Empire of Keja, and I didn’t need to build another fantasy world from scratch for it.


What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel set in the same world as “The Lady of Butterflies,” one generation later. (This is not the fight-for-your-chance-second-chance-at-life story mentioned above, but a separate story. The world has really expanded). It features a protagonist with time travel abilities… of a sort.

I also have the usual slew of short stories in various stages of writing, editing, and submission. My most recent publication is “The Palace of the Silver Dragon” in Strange Horizons.


“The Lady of Butterflies” appears in the November/December 2018 issue of F&SF.

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Clicking on Y. M. Pang’s photo will take you to her website:


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