Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: When Nain came to Shirin’s door

This week, Futures is delighted to welcome back Filip Wiltgren with his latest story, When Nain came to Shirin’s door. By day, Filip is a mild-mannered communication officer at Linköping University, where he also teaches communication and presentation skills at a post-graduate level. But by night, he turns into a frenzied ten-fingered typist, clawing out jagged stories of fantasy and science fiction, which have found lairs in places such as Analog, Grimdark, Daily SF and Nature Futures. Filip roams the Swedish highlands, kept in check by his wife and kids. He can be found at or you can follow him on Twitter. Here, he reveals what inspired his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing When Nain came to Shirin’s door

I’m slightly ashamed to say that I stole the plot for When Nain came to Shirin’s door. But only slightly, because I stole it from Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

The Forever War, in case you haven’t read it (and a shocking number of people haven’t these days) is an amazing hard SF novel, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It, together with John Steakley’s Armor, and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, laid the basis for all my military-themed fiction.

The Forever War is to SF what Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is to Vietnam War movies — a gritty, down to earth, bloody and ruthless story which is, first and foremost, about people. And if The Forever War is FMJ, then Armor is Das Boot, a dark, alien movie where the machine is in the centre and the soldiers are as much its prisoners as its masters. And Starship Troopers is, well, a teenage coming-of-age military power fantasy. And if you don’t agree then we can step out in the alley behind the pub and discuss it.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t aware that I was stealing the plot of The Forever War. When Nain came to Shirin’s door came about as I was reading about the whole Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies debate about where science fiction was going, and I realized that my own SF was, to quote James Cameron, very “male, stale and pale”.

Because while reading about Flash Gordon pulping Emperor Ming might be fun, it’s much more fun to see Emperor Ming getting whopped by Hyralva Kanye, a 42-year-old soccer mom whose prime attributes include steadiness under fire, an endless tolerance for stress, and a penchant for nerd-rage. It’s simply fresh. And yes, that’s a blatant call for more diversity in science fiction, and if you don’t agree with that, the alley behind the pub has been freshly swept and sanded.

So I started Door with the names Nain and Shirin, and rolled from there. The outcome wasn’t planed as I tend to write into the dark and make everything up as I go along, but I’m happy with the way it turned out, and it’s one of my favourite stories.

However, I will have to, as we say in Sweden, throw a boot at it. Because just as with Haldeman’s Forever War and many other time-dilation stories, Door doesn’t adequately take into account the speed of technological progress. And if you don’t agree with that, then we’ll have to agree to disagree, because the pub owner has built a professional debating ring and I’m afraid that more arguments would endanger my amateur status for the next Worldcon shout-o-lympics.


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