We're very excited that our latest anthology, Immigrant Sci-Fi Short Stories, is available to buy now! The book combines new tales from submissions, complemented by selected contemporary and modern stories, set in future, interstellar, fantastical and alternative realities, with a foundation of older, realist narratives exploring the plights and adventures of immigrants. As part of this Q&A, some of the book’s modern authors describe the inspiration behind their story, offering a fascinating glimpse of what’s in store with this anthology…
What was the inspiration behind your story in this anthology?
Ali Abbas – An Absolute Amount of Sadness
My story is based on real events. On a rainy day in London, I did encounter a girl walking by in a completely sodden sweater. There are other truths scattered throughout the story, for example, it is a common South Asian saying that someone who loses their temper has a djinn sitting on them, a similar image to being hagridden. I cannot in all honesty claim the girl in the sodden sweater was a Niskie.
Bebe Bayliss – Point of Entry
I emigrated from California to Canada. Geographically it was just a move up the West Coast, same language, familiar terrain. I’d read up on local issues, studied the metric system, prepared documentation, and thought I was ready. The differences hit so unexpectedly, in such mundane situations, that it seemed I’d entered a parallel universe where things looked and behaved the same, except they didn’t.
Christine Bennett – A Foot in Two Worlds
I wanted to capture the nuances of being a child of an immigrant, mainly the struggle of being disconnected from your family’s language, culture, and place. Sometimes, as someone of Greek heritage, one continually bears assumptions about Greek culture. ‘Greece’ is often packaged for mass consumption from flavours to travel. It leads to constant internal conversations about identity and self. It’s a constant push-pull of feeling like a cultural outsider.
Benjamin Blattberg – How Rigel Gained a Rabbi (Briefly)
The inspiration behind my story: living unhappily as an expat (my idea notebook says, ‘people live in ruins meant for giants’); reading William Tenn’s On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi! (my notebook: ‘rabbi goes to alien planet, finds energy aliens who are Jews’); combining random words (my notebook: ‘Rabbi on Rigel’ – I probably enjoyed the consonance of it); thinking about the ethical demands of witnessing genocide, but, you know, wanting to make myself laugh.
V. Castro – RingWorm
In a lot of my writing I incorporate colonization and its lasting effects when it comes to identity. If humans do inhabit other worlds we will be colonizers once more, but I would hope it would be a place with no indigenous life we would destroy to make room for ourselves. This is a tale of the possibilities if there were.
P.A. Cornell – El Bordado
My parents moved us from Chile to Canada in 1976, unprepared for the reality of immigration. They’d left their support system behind and could only afford to communicate sporadically with family through letters, which is why I wrote this in an epistolic style. I also come from a family where embroidery was a common hobby. Telling stories through textile arts is also very Chilean. Because of this, the narrative is interwoven with the work the MC does on her embroidery.
Yelena Crane – A World Away and Buried Deep
This story poured out of me as I was recovering from a COVID brain fog and a few months into the Russian-Ukrainian war. As a former Soviet, who immigrated to America very young, I felt like so much of my identity had been lost. How can I identify as Ukrainian when so much of what I know is actually Soviet? When I don’t even know the family we have left behind in Kharkiv? I can’t even speak the language, except for some words peppered in here and there that somehow survived. This story was about me trying to grapple with these feelings and accept all the parts of myself despite my shortcomings because the real life story isn’t over. I can plant new roots, nurture new connections, teach my children what I didn’t learn. At the very least, I can cook a mean borscht.
Louis Evans – Babies Come from Earth
I was interested in reproductive autonomy and coercion, and sought a fantastical context to explore those themes. It is easy to think of freedom as something guarded by the self in opposition to the other. Here I am interested instead in how freedom can be expressed and understood within our relations to the other; and how oppression can be understood as a malignancy of those relations. Often I am a very analytical writer, but many of the images in this story came to me freely, outside of reason. I am grateful for them.
Illimani Ferreira – Warhorse
‘Warhorse’ is a commentary on the rise of fascism worldwide, more specifically it targets attacks on the social community which consists mostly of immigrants. Some maybe not-so-subtle hints were presented through inverted names either for ethnic groups (e.g. the Xnital are a reference to the Latinx), or locations, e.g. the Niwri reef is a commentary on the Irwin County ICE concentration camp for immigrants, which had reported cases of compulsory sterilization of immigrants. I tried to convey a general commentary on the issue worldwide and certainly not limited to the US but I’d rather let the reader try to explore such references and solve the puzzle themselves.
Elana Gomel – Danae
The story of Danae and the Rain of Gold was my favourite Greek myth when I was a child. In this story, Danae, locked up in a tower by her father, is impregnated by Zeus who enters the tower as a golden rain. She is exiled and later gives birth to her son in a strange land. It is a beautiful, evocative, and cruel story about parents and children, exile and revenge, humans and gods. Did Danae ever miss her homeland? Did she hate her father? What about her mother who is never mentioned in the myth? All these questions blended with my own experience of an immigrant twice over whose homeland only exists in my imagination and the memories of my childhood. And the result is my own ‘Danae’.
Eileen Gonzalez – The Remaking of Gloria
‘The Remaking of Gloria’ had two inspiration points. The first was the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border, which always seems to be going from bad to worse and which the people in power have no interest in solving humanely. The second was horror stories of real-life scientists exploiting impoverished minorities (e.g., the Tuskegee and Guatemala syphilis experiments). I thought to myself, if a mad scientist in a sci-fi story were looking for people to experiment on – people no one ‘important’ would miss – they would go to the border.
Roy Gray – Rumblings
I attended a Comma Press writers’ course where we were asked to write a ‘reveal’ story. I had read ‘Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe’ by J.R. Gott and thought there was a story in there. Also I’d thought climate change might drive an advanced civilisation to desperate measures. Writing the ‘advanced’ civilisation was fun. I always liked a good ‘info dump’. Beyond that lie spoilers and hence I’ll say no more.
Alex Gurevich – Eater and A
‘Eater and A’ began as a ‘what if’ world-building thought experiment. Then, a prompt in a writing competition sparked a plot idea. A set of characters – a family caught in catastrophic events – took shape. I felt moved to investigate how the trauma of having a refugee experience affects one’s ethical stance and decision-making process.
Jennifer Hudak – The Taste of Centuries, the Taste of Home
I’ve wanted to write a story about my complex feelings about my heritage for some time – specifically the themes of displacement, of being twice removed from a ‘homeland’, and of food and language being links that tie us to our ancestors. Originally this story took place on a space colony, and the main character is trying to bake challah with ingredients found on an alien planet. I couldn’t quite get it to work. At the same time, I was struggling with the worldbuilding in my novel-in-progress, a portal fantasy. So I decided to set the story in the world of my novel, making it fantasy instead of science fiction, but with the same themes at its heart.
Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito – A Satchel of Seeds
For this story, I was inspired by the generations of women in my family and the displacement they suffered during war in their country. In many ways, it was an exploration of my ancestry and how the past informs the future.
Jas Kainth – Voices from Another World
After having spent a lot of time with my mum during lockdown and really taking the time to listen to her regale her childhood experiences, it prompted me to think about my own. Growing up as a child of an immigrant, discussions about identity and ‘otherness’ have always featured in my life. But, only as an adult, has it become more a part of my discourse. I really thought about the concept of what it is to be British so that’s what the short story aims to explore: what is it to be British today?
Samara Lo – A Rosella’s Home
I wanted to write a story that captures the experience of migrants and the jarring culture shock that comes with it. Writing it from the perspective of a robot also allowed me to add another layer of ‘otherness’ and highlight that the migrant experience can be excluding or dehumanising, but there is also room for growth, change and respect.
Kwame M.A. McPherson – I Need To Keep It Moving
The thought came to me when I began to write freestyle, seeing where the story led. As it did, my random thoughts came upon the plight of refugees caught in a war zone and within that a story of a family separated from each other. I guess subconsciously I wanted to highlight what happens when innocent people are caught up in a conflict not of their own making, involvement or interest.
C.R. Serajeddini – I Will Be Mila Tomorrow
My own experiences as a child immigrant, trying to figure out where exactly I fit in, feeling as though I was treading the proverbial border between two lands and never quite belonging in either. With so much in the news about migrants coming into the UK by boat, I really hoped to write something that might help the reader understand the desperation of people who leave their lives behind in search of refuge.
Bogi Takács – Four-Point Affective Calibration
Someone told me that another of my immigration-related stories had too much anger and not enough other emotions. First, I got even angrier… Second, I thought to myself, here are all the various emotions, enumerated one by one – and wrote this story. Following this concept did not make it less angry though; the US immigration process is horrendous, and negative emotions about it are justified. This follow-up story sold rapidly to John Joseph Adams at Lightspeed, and now it’s also in this anthology as a reprint (thank you!).
Tehnuka – Potential
People have long been making irreversible journeys away from loved ones. In ‘Potential’, I wanted to consider how we balance motivations for migration against desire to remain with family, and the differing experiences and expectations of first- and second-generation migrants. When my parents’ generation immigrated, communication home was only through letters, and often very limited due to war. For many, leaving meant never seeing loved ones again. What makes that decision necessary? What makes it feasible?
Francesco Verso, translated by Michael Colbert – The Green Ship
The inspiration came from watching the TV news about climate and war migrants that are coming to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. I found it hard to believe that our society (once a society of emigrants) has forgotten the value of hospitality and doesn’t want to integrate new forces that, for an aging society, would be precious. So in ‘The Green Ship’ I tried to answer with a Science Fictional solution that could give some new land to people without any land.
M. Darusha Wehm – Home Sick
While I never got to visit Tuvalu, I have spent a lot of time in the South Pacific and saw first-hand how precarious many of those atolls and reefs were becoming. The effects of climate change were obvious and stark, and I couldn’t help but imagine what might become of those places and people living at the border between land and sea. This story also came from thinking about how we might be able to solve multiple problems at once, and what new issues might arise even as we created ingenious solutions.
Kevin Martens Wong – Alabanda
Despite my love for Singapore, I have always had to still keep one eye on the possibility of moving elsewhere. Like me and the protagonist in the short story, therefore, many Kristang find themselves in perpetual motion and movement; even if this is not physical, it almost certainly psychoemotional, sociocultural and even spiritual, sited as we are by circumstances of our complex, multifaceted identity at the crossroads of multiple affective and spatiotemporal aspects of life. In a sense, therefore, our existence remains in itself a transient, liminal space, with our sense of home always somewhere outside of ourselves – alabanda (‘somewhere over there’), as we might say in Kristang.
Eris Young – All That Water
I originally wrote this story as an entry for the ‘Language Evolves’ short story competition back in 2020 or 2021 – the goal was to write stories that explore through a science-fictional lens the ways that language (and its speakers) evolve, change or develop over time. My academic background is in linguistics, and specifically I’ve always been interested in language change, so it felt like the perfect competition for me. I had originally planned to write from the POV of an alien, but then I got thinking about the idea of evolution and the way a population’s environment could influence the language they speak, and I thought, ‘What if there are aliens, but to the protagonist, the non-humans are familiar and the humans are alien?’ I did a lot of research on how simultaneous interpretation/translation works, on animal (specifically cephalopod) communication, and really just let my imagination run free. The themes of diaspora, resource scarcity and adaptation to adverse circumstances, which I think resonate with the immigrant experience all over the world, came through organically from that.
To read these stories and more, buy the book from our website here!
- See the full list of authors in this book here.
- Browse the full collection of anthologies here.
- Did you miss our previous anthology Q&A? Take a look at what the Hidden Realms authors had to say about their stories in that collection.