I doubt I’ve ever put as much work into a short story as I did this one. I first got the idea in 2006, after a talk with my friend Dina. Dina was the first Muslim I ever became real friends with. Being that we were both college students living in a red state during the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, there was no escaping the public (often toxic) discussion of Islam.
I hit on the idea of “kite” aliens–like flying squirrels, but even less graceful, whose bodies would look to us like a big square piece of paper. And I decided they would be converts to Islam. Our main character, a doctor and a secret atheist, treats them for a mysterious disease, and their conversion has damn near started a war. And and and… well, a lot of ideas went into this story. You’ll just have to read it.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that meant something to me as much as this one did.
After MANY drafts, the story sold to Tor.com. Many many people helped me with the endless wrestling of this story, but special mention for Khaalidah Mohammed-Ali, who checked and rechecked the thing for plot & character inconsistencies, and for accuracy in my depiction of Muslim characters. She’s also a magnificent writer; check out her website and make sure to read her story “Talking To Cancer” in the latest issue of FIYAH.
And if you’re a member of SFWA, you can upvote both this story and one of Khaalidah’s at the Nebula Suggested Reading List.