Issue 047 Author Interview: Robin Kirk and “Home”

Can’t get enough of our Issue 047 author interviews? Then you’re in luck! Today we bring you our interview with Robin Kirk, author of the sci-fi story “Home“.

LSQ: “Home” seems very much like an homage from the parent of a teenager: the bittersweet perspective of children growing up. Is this derived from a personal story?
Robin: Yes! I’ve been writing a space opera that deals with humanitarian questions… but in SPACE! I was in my bedroom thinking about what it would be like to face issues involving refugees and displacement–human challenges that will continue to exist regardless of where we are–when my son returned home. I behaved as the mother did in this story, listening for where he was going in the house and what he was doing and not wanting to hover or interrupt. The mother here is a stations commander, so has power in her world. Yet her son’s safety–and by extension, the safety of the other humans she’s responsible for–is a worry that constantly weighs on her. I think science fiction gives writers some interesting tools to examine commonly shared human experiences from fresh angles.

LSQ: The mom worries about her son’s docking, the acid clouds surrounding the planet, and of course, the superheated plains. Starting with the mom’s opening dream, I wonder if she experienced the alluded accident or she viewed it though her child’s eyes, as connected as she is to him.

Robin: In this story, the father has died in an accident. The mother–as all parents and guardians must–has to figure out how to allow that child to become an adult and have freedom, even if it means coming to grief. She can express concern but also wrestles with that worry privately and constantly. I think most people who have teen and adult children feel this viscerally. Your heart is your own but it’s also out there and at risk. You have to learn to live with the constant possibility of that loved one coming to harm. That’s true on Terra or in space.

LSQ: The mom does what she can to make her son comfortable, including lowering the temperature of the ship and giving him the space he needs. She would like nothing better than to fling open her door, but she instead shows restraint. How does the science fiction setting change the depiction of the parent-child relationship?

Robin: I don’t think the approach through science fiction changes that core depiction. On Terra or in space, we are all human and face human challenges and dilemmas. Putting this in space, for me, allows some fun world-building, but the personal drama is the same. That said, I get a triple-heartbeat when I write about interstellar travel, rocket ships, and alien worlds. To me, it’s exciting and challenging to put my characters in these wild settings and see what they do.
LSQ: How important is setting in stories you write? Are you more character or plot driven?
Robin: As much as I love and delight in world-building, for me, everything is rooted in character. As one of my teachers at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Margaret Bechard, once said to me, the characters do have to hit their stage marks occasionally, meaning plot does matter. But the reader has to be on board with that character and what that character does has to interact with that world in a compelling and meaningful way. My writing is a lot of staring at the screen and wondering, “so what WILL this character do next?” The answer is almost always a bit of a surprise that at the same time ends up being exactly right for the plot.